Why Robert Wone Could Not Remain Silent in the Face of Injustice – And Why We Won’t
This July marks three years since Robert Wone was named general counsel of Radio Free Asia; a post he held for less than a month before his tragic murder.
Yes, we’ve lost a good man. We’ve also lost a skilled attorney. And although a month isn’t long, looking back we’re left with a new sense of loss: a potentially great journalist.
Contrary to some popular opinion there is still a fair amount of solid journalism – and solid journalists – left out there. Yet as anyone who strays near newsprint these days will tell you, it’s not a career for the slight of heart. Never has been.
That’s just one reason why we suspect Robert would have grown into a solid journalist himself.
Robert Wone could have had his choice of careers and colleagues, but he chose Radio Free Asia. A non-profit broadcaster funded by the U.S. government, RFA seeks to provide news to Asian countries where access to a free press is limited or prohibited by the government.
Since 1996 RFA has worked hard to earn its reputation for no-nonsense enterprising journalism and to win its audience’s trust. They’re one of the very few organizations confident enough to post its Code of Ethics directly at the top of its homepage (a code I can tell you is strictly enforced) and just this week RFA was named Broadcaster of the Year by the New York Festivals.
Still, the most important measurement has to be the degree to which RFA and its journalists are reviled by governments like those in China, Burma or Vietnam, simply for telling audiences the truth of events. Even if you want to be a journalist, there are easier gigs than just about anything at RFA.
It’s clear Robert chose RFA, difficulties and all, because he believed in the rightness of its mission. He knew it would be hard work in sometimes tough conditions for considerably less pay than he could have earned elsewhere. The grit on display in that choice bodes well for a future journalist.
But journalists aren’t made by the organizations they work for; they rise and fall on the merits of their commitment, work, dedication and integrity. It is not an easy thing to willingly be an irritant to just about everyone with power, day after day, and not let it get to you.
But Robert was the right man for the job. In the words of his RFE/RL counterpart John Lindburg, “…Robert was drawn to the world of U.S. international broadcasting because of his values.”
Integrity: he was a man of impeccable integrity. He had devoted his life to pursuing the truth – first in a law firm, then in broadcasting. Integrity is the bedrock of broadcasting and law. Without it, the edifice collapses.
Compassion: he had a big heart. He wished to help those in need. He truly cared about others.
And Deeds: he knew that caring was not enough. Beliefs must be translated into action. Speak out. Communicate the truth to those who need to hear it. Don’t remain silent in the face of injustice.
These are guide stars for journalists. With them it seems clear Robert could have charted a course for great accomplishments.
In his closing, Mr. Lindburg urged friends and family to honor Robert by pursuing these values he cherished. We intend to do just that. We will pursue the truth, and will not remain silent in the face of injustice.
-posted by Doug