Originally published in High Peaks Pure Earth, November 13, 2012
Reposted in TPR with permission
Mr. Ngapo Jigme at the Tibetan Service of Radio Free AsiaI was deeply taken by surprise and was shocked to learn that Mr. Ngapo Jigme, the director of Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan service was suddenly dismissed on November 1. As far as I know, Tibetan intellectuals, media professionals, Chinese intellectuals studying the Tibet issue and international Tibet Studies experts, who live abroad, have all expressed that they did not understand what happened and were very surprised.
In 1985 Mr. Ngapo Jigme left Tibet, and worked for His Holiness Dalai Lama and the International Campaign for Tibet. He also studied at the Department of Government and Foreign Affairs at University of Virginia. He is well versed in all three languages of Tibetan, Chinese and English, and he possesses the outstanding spirit of an independent intellectual. Since 1996 when the U.S. Congress approved to establish the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia, he had become absolutely the right person for the job and shouldered the important task as the founder. At present, under the 16 year devoted leadership of Mr. Ngapo Jigme, the Tibetan service of RFA, with over 30 journalists and editors, has become an important Tibet-related media, which can be called a shining example in the world. But he was suddenly dismissed without any reasons being given.
I have heard when the person in charge announced the dismissal of Mr. Ngapo Jigme in the presence of the staff of the Tibetan service, he refused to give any reasons for the dismissal. Meanwhile, the security personnel of RFA were ordered to escort Mr. Ngapo Jigme out of the building, and the action itself is tantamount to banishing him from the building. Nobody can understand why Mr. Ngapo, who is upright and has been dedicated to his work, is treated with such humiliation after having worked conscientiously for the media and journalism for 16 years.
I once worked for the media within the system under Chinese Communist Party control, and I knew well the ways how autocratic power works. But it has never occurred to me that, in a democratic society, dismissing one from his post can be done in such an autocratic way as well. The reasons for for the dismissal were neither explained, nor was the character and dignity of the person concerned taken into account.
By the way, I was also dismissed. By coincidence, it also happened after I had worked for 16 years. But at the moment, should I take the opportunity to praise the way in which the Chinese Communist Party authorities dismissed me? It happened in the office of the Party Secretary of TAR Federation of Literary and Art Circles. Smiling, one Tibetan and one Han Chinese official said to me gently, “because of your attitude toward your work, we’ve decided to allow you to resign voluntarily.” At that time I refused to resign on my own initiative, and answered, “I won’t resign on my own initiative, it’s fine for you to dismiss me.” This was handled not so badly as they did not order the security guards of the work unit to escort me out of the building, while leading a big black dog on a leash.
Judging by this −−− viewed from the fact that the person in charge did not give the reasons for the dismissal of Mr. Ngapo, comparatively speaking, the officials of CCP are more frank and honest. On one occasion 8 years ago, they clearly told me that the reason for them to deprive me of my position as the Editor for the journal Tibetan Literature was because I wrote a book and committed “very grave political mistakes.” At the time, the Deputy Director of the General Administration of Press and Publications gave the following explanation: “[The book] takes such serious political standpoints as praising the 14th Dalai Lama and the 17th Karmapa, and believing in and propagating religion, and the viewpoints [expressed in it] are erroneous. Some compositions, in a certain degree, have already entered into a certain political mistakes…” See, the CCP officials even made their reasons for dismissing me public.
As a listener of the Tibetan service of RFA for many years and also as a columnist who has written for RFA for the past six years, I know well how valuable the free and open platform for speech provided by the Tibetan service of RFA is. While it reports the news about the situation in Tibetan areas in China and Tibetan communities abroad in a timely fashion and truthfully, it upholds the values of an independent, balanced and pluralistic media, and adheres to the principle of freedom of speech and the impartiality of news. It also presents various voices so as to enable a variety of views to be expressed.The reason why the Tibetan service of
RFA has had great influence in Tibetan areas in China is precisely the result of the principle upheld by Mr. Ngapo over the past 16 years. I don’t know whether this is exactly the reason why he was dismissed, and one can only speculate about this. Because if it is the case, then this should be considered as dubious and a disgrace in a democratic society.
His Holiness Dalai Lama has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the truth, and the basis of truth relies on precisely the freedom of journalism. Just as His Holiness stated, “Unfortunately, in certain places in the world, news reports are generally censored and distorted,” and “vigorous censoring of news is immoral.” The autocratic regimes attempting to monopolize truth have always tried every means to control information and to hide the truth. The media under CCP control has always had only one voice, and the media serves as the mouthpiece and propaganda tools for the party. Thus, free media abroad is the irreplaceable channel for Tibetans inside Tibet to gain access to information and truth. In the struggle against autocracy, what we need to guard against the most is exactly using autocratic means to combat autocracy. If anybody wants to change the open and pluralistic Tibetan service of RFA into a propaganda tool and mouthpiece, then, the service will not only lose its current influence, but also seriously undermine the image of His Holiness Dalai Lama and obstruct the democratic process in Tibetan exile communities.
Thus, Radio Free Asia should clearly explain their reasons for dismissing Mr. Ngapo. This is not a personal issue for Mr. Ngapo alone, in reality, this has caused people from all circles to worry about the future of the Tibetan service of RFA. One will also be concerned with the negative impact it has for campaigns for Tibet abroad and the perplexity it has caused for people in Tibetan areas in China, in particular, at the juncture when the current situation in Tibet has never been so severe.
Finally, I would like to express my greatest admiration for and pay my respects to Mr. Ngapo −−− thank you for leading the Tibetan service of RFA for the past 16 years. While the service has provided truthful news for Tibetan listeners and has reported the serious situation in Tibet to the outside world, it has also shown the value of the principle of impartiality of news, balanced news reporting, the supervision of public opinion etc. Mr. Ngapo has made a great contribution to the success of the service, and indeed his achievements are great. I would like to say to you that justice is in the hearts of people, and history will always be restored to its original condition. And all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will see all the truth, the false, the good and the evil.
November 8, 2012, Lhasa