WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed legislation naming a Cincinnati student who died after being imprisoned in North Korea. The legislation would provide the US Agency for Global Media with $10 million a year for the next five years to pay for programs designed to counter North Korea’s repressive censorship and surveillance state.
Legislation passed nearly five years after the death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, arrested after removing a propaganda poster from a hotel, would require the president to develop and submit to Congress a strategy to tackle the repressive environment information in North Korea. .
It would also fund the development of new ways to protect the privacy and identity of people receiving media from the United States Agency for Global Media and other outside media in North Korea. In addition, it would promote the development of tools, technologies, and new approaches to internet freedom, including digital and non-digital means of sharing information related to North Korea. Finally, it would also fund the repair of antennas that broadcast information to North Korea but were damaged in a typhoon years ago and never repaired.
The legislation was sponsored by U.S. Senators from Ohio, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown, and Democratic Senator from Delaware Chris Coons.
“The treatment of Otto Warmbier by North Korean authorities that resulted in his death remains a powerful reminder of the brutality of Kim Jong Un’s regime,” Brown said in a statement. “This legislation reaffirms our commitment to fight North Korea’s human rights abuses against its own people and others who have been held captive, and to counter North Korean surveillance, censorship and repression. .”
Portman recalled Warmbier’s story in a speech to the Senate to promote the legislation.
He said Warmbier traveled to North Korea in 2015 with a tour group for a cultural tour. At the end of what was supposed to be a brief stay, North Korean security officials arrested Warmbier at the airport as he waited for his flight out of the country. Portman said he was sentenced to 15 years in prison “on trumped-up charges regarding whether or not he attempted to remove a poster that was a political poster.” During 17 months in captivity, Warmbier was abused by the North Koreans to the point that he was returned to the United States in a comatose state and died on June 19, 2017, Portman said.
Portman said people in North Korea don’t get accurate information about the world or their country because of censorship.
“This bill has sufficient funding to put in place the infrastructure that will now be needed to effectively send accurate information to North Korea to counter North Korean propaganda for the benefit of the North Korean people.” , Portman said. “Together, this chamber can send a bipartisan message to the world that we will not tolerate the censorship and repression of the North Korean regime.
Pictured, Otto Warmbier, a student from Cincinnati, is escorted to the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 2016. A law bearing Warmbier’s name was passed by the US Senate on Thursday to fund measures to counter North Korea’s censorship and surveillance.