VOA and RFA Broadcasts Warn Burmese of Cyclone and Cover Crisis

Broadcasts from the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) gave the Burmese people some of the first warnings of Cyclone Nargis and continue to report life-saving information and first hand accounts of the wreckage there.

“It’s troubling that many of the Burmese people learned of this impending disaster only when foreign outlets such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America sounded the alarm. Although they were aware of the threat, Burma’s state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm’s path,” observed First Lady Laura Bush in her press conference on Monday, May 5.

Days before the cyclone hit, RFA interviewed a Rangoon sociologist and journalist who detailed how the government wasn’t properly warning and preparing its citizens for the impending disaster. Similarly, VOA reported the Burmese government’s storm strength estimate was about one-third of the predictions from the U.S. Navy’s Typhoon Warning Center.

RFA and VOA ongoing news coverage includes reports on disaster relief efforts, health and safety issues and the impact on the May 10 national referendum. Exclusive photos and video footage have been featured in VOA’s TV programs and online by both broadcasters giving the world a glimpse of the devastation in Burma.

“The isolation of the Burmese people has magnified the crisis there to unimaginable levels,” said James K. Glassman, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal government agency that oversees both VOA and RFA. “Our expanded Burmese-language broadcasts are more important than ever to get information to the people of Burma and the world.”

RFA and VOA broadcast a total of 12 hours daily to Burma, following increases in broadcasts in September 2007 and in April 2008, and including both original and repeated programming.

VOA and RFA have a measured audience of some 23% of adults weekly in cities across Burma. In times of crisis, listening often spikes to levels twice the weekly rate. Programs can be heard on shortwave and medium wave in Burma. Traffic to the web sites of both outlets: www.voanews.com/burmese and www.rfa.org/burmese has surged.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency, supervising all U.S. government-supported, non-military international broadcasting, whose mission is to promote freedom and democracy and to enhance understanding through multi-media communication of accurate, objective, and balanced news, information, and other programming about America and the world to audiences overseas.

BBG broadcasting organizations include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Mart