Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) today, participating in interviews with Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) and meeting with top agency officials.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner praised BBG broadcasters for providing news and information to the Burmese people despite strict government control over the media. And she called for a continued strong U.S. international media presence in Burma.
“I always listen to VOA in the morning at 5:30. VOA world news is very useful for me especially, and I like the media roundup, Burma in the News,” she said.
Over the next week, Suu Kyi will address the United Nations in New York and receive the Congressional Gold Medal from U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill. This is her first trip to the United States since being placed under house arrest in 1990. She was released in November 2010.
During her visits to RFA and VOA, Suu Kyi met with BBG Governors Michael Meehan, Victor Ashe, and Susan McCue, International Broadcasting Bureau Director Richard Lobo, VOA Director David Ensor, RFA President Libby Liu and others.
She praised RFA for serving as a critical information lifeline for her and the Burmese people during the military junta’s authoritarian rule and the country’s current era of transition and reform.
“This is, in many ways, as I have been saying, the last mile,” Suu Kyi said. “This is the time we need all the help possible to make sure that our country keeps on the right path. This is another way of saying RFA is needed more than ever for us in Burma and for other people in other places, which are not yet free.”
“Human rights must be protected by the rule of law and there can never be occasions where human rights can be neglected or ignored,” Suu Kyi said during her interview at VOA headquarters.
VOA has provided extensive first-hand coverage of Suu Kyi’s tour of Europe this year, and carried the full speech of her unprecedented address to the British Parliament in June. In August, VOA was granted its first-ever interview with a Burmese head of state, President Thein Sein.
This year, RFA launched a special webpage to inform the international community about the plight of the Burmese ethnic minority Rohingya population. The Rohingya are little known but have been brought to the fore with the outbreak of communal violence in the last three months. RFA was one of the few news organizations that had a reporter and videographer at the scene of the violence after it erupted.
When Burmese voters went to the polls on April 1 and the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) were there providing wall-to-wall coverage as democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi gained a seat in Parliament.
On the occasion of VOA’s 70th anniversary this year, Suu Kyi said it was like the birthday of a friend, “because the VOA and other broadcasting stations were the friends who kept me company during my long years of house arrest.”