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IFJ concerned about possible funding cuts to Cantonese-language independent radio services, in view of China's severe restrictions on freedom of expression

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Urges US to Maintain Funding to Cantonese Radio Services

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges the United States Congress to maintain funding for Cantonese broadcasting by Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) in the coming financial year.

The Cantonese services broadcast by VOA and RFA are among the few Cantonese-language media able to maintain coverage free of self-censorship or the influence of China's Government. The services broadcast to more than 130 million people in Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan provinces in mainland China. Most Cantonese speakers in mainland China rely heavily on their access to foreign media to obtain accurate and fair news coverage, especially with regard to sensitive topics that they are not able to access through the media in mainland China or Hong Kong.

The IFJ has learnt that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is considering a proposal to cut funding to the VOA and RFA Cantonese language services. About 20 staff at VOA and RFA would be affected by the proposed cuts, which would take effect from October 1.

The VOA Cantonese service was established during World War II, while RFA was founded in 1959 and has been broadcasting its Cantonese service since 1998. Both services are broadcast via shortwave and over the internet.

At the 12th Annual Human Rights Press Awards on 29 March, co-organised by IFJ affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists' Association, RFA's Cantonese service was awarded the prize for radio coverage for its report into forced abortions in Guangxi province.
"In view of China's severe restrictions on media rights and freedom of expression, the IFJ is deeply concerned about the consequences of the proposed funding cuts to VOA and RFA's Cantonese services," said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

"Such cuts would drastically reduce free and fair coverage in China, and we respectfully urge the US Congress to consider carefully the consequences for human rights in China."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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