BY TSEWANG NORBU
I am posting Tsewang la’s piece here on my blog since he is someone who has worked in RFA for a long time and has an insiders point of view. JN
Although I view myself a political person but I often prefer to refrain myself from indulging in heated and emotional debates like this. But the current debate on and the way Jigme Ngabo was seemingly forced to step down from his position as Director of the Tibetan Service of Radio Free Asia prompts one to articulate.
On the internet there are serious and unserious views both in Tibetan and English languages reacting to the letter of Dana Rohrbacher, US Congressman, to Sikyong Lobsang Sangay and his rejoinder.
As such I welcome the very insightful article by Jamyang Norbu “Free Radio Free Asia” on this website and I would to write my opinion by drawing from my personal experience of working with the RFA and Jigme-la as stringer since March 1997. Although I know that he is the son of Ngabo Ngawang Jigme whom the Kashag called “honest and patriotic” I always have my political reservations on his historic role, but have great respect to his son, Jigme Ngabo, the Director of RFA Tibetan Service, as he never ever tried to interfere in what, when and how I file my report during all those years. He encouraged me and I am quite sure others as well to file reports on various aspects as long as it is sound and verifiable. I have taken this to heart and I am thankful to him.
In my article on Tibetan Democracy I have mentioned his father Ngabo Ngawang Jigme as one those high aristocracy of old Tibet who choose rather to collaborate with the Chinese Regime than the government of Tibet under the reform orientated young Dalai Lama. I am quite sure that he has read my article but sensed no personal grudge. I value this high.
It is easy to talk about tolerance in theory but we all know that it is hard to put tolerance into practice. Jigme Ngabo, however, showed tolerance and openness in his position as Director of the Tibetan Service.
For him the sole criterion is journalistic credibility, in other words, the reporter has to stand up for his or her report. This is for me freedom of speech and freedom of press in theory and practice.
As a Tibetan and a reporter I see that this issue touches two important aspects of democratic governance. I am a person who plays with open card and always stand for independence. I do not know whether Jigme-La stands for independence or Middle Way Approach but frankly speaking as a stringer of the RFA this is of no relevance to me. This is exactly the greatness of Jigme-La as Director of the Tibetan Service.
So much on the person of Jigme Ngabo but this issue has wider implications and I will elaborate more below and share with you some personal experiences. During the TSG meet in Prague, I tried to interview our Prime Minister, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, for RFA which he refused on the ground that he does not grant interview with RFA. For a person living in a democratic society in the West, I had no problem in accepting it as I know that the then German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, also did not give interview to the influential German tabloid Bild Zeitung and it is my conviction that the RFA in general and the Tibetan Service in particular is no tabloid media.
However, I would like to take the CTA in protection against this charge as I also heard similar complaints against RFA from Tseten Norbu when he was President of Tibetan Youth Congress. We all know that the TYC stands for independence and the CTA propagates the Middle Way Approach. I also hear complaints from ordinary Tibetans that the Tibetan Service of RFA provides forum to voices critical of the CTA.
It is not right to create impression that the RFA airs more CTA critical voices. An analysis of the RFA Tibetan Service will definitely prove that such assumptions are wrong. The fact is that vibrant democratic societies need critical voices and programs with Jamyang Norbu or others must be seen in this light.
It may not be wrong to assume that both the CTA and TYC (at least some office bearers) see the RFA as an instrument for their official standpoint and forget the value of media that is independent of any state control. Freedom of speech and freedom of information is such an important accomplishment today that in democratic countries media is often regarded as the fourth pillar of a modern state along-with executive, judicative and legislative.
The Mission Statement of Radio Free Asia “is to provide accurate and timely news and information to Asian countries whose governments prohibit access to a free press. Guided by the core principles of freedom of expression and opinion, RFA serves its listeners by providing information critical for informed decision-making.”
Although I feel that the tone of the letter of the US Congressman to Sikyong is very unduly, I completely agree with the honourable member of the Parliament that any political censorship within RFA must be fully investigated and Jigme Ngabo immediately reinstated in full honour.
Finally I agree with Jamyang Norbu that Beijing is playing with Dharamsala and it has become “an article of faith” with the Tibetan leadership that Beijing would grant one day “genuine autonomy” if the Tibetan side fulfill all the preconditions China sets. This will not happen or at least is not going to happen during the lifetime of the XIV Dalai Lama, then reaching at a negotiated settlement would require Beijing to allow His Holiness back to Tibet and come to China. It would pose a great threat to the CCP power monopoly. At the moment we see no Chinese leadership with enough stature to risk it. When one day His Holiness the XIV. Dalai Lama would be no more there, Beijing might agree to give “genuine autonomy” and I feel that the Tibetan leadership would not be in a position to win majority in a referendum to support the negotiated settlement as stated in the Strasbourg Proposal.