Senate Passes Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act

Legislation Authored by Portman, Brown and Coons Designed to Hold North Korea Accountable for Human Rights Abuses

June 16, 2022 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Less than a week before the five-year anniversary of his death, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Chris Coons (D-DE) announced that their bipartisan legislation named in honor of Otto Warmbier, the Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act, passed the Senate by unanimous consent. This legislation, introduced last June and reported favorably out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October, provides $10 million annually for the next five years to counter North Korea’s repressive censorship and surveillance state, while also encouraging sanctions on those who enable this repressive information environment both in and outside of North Korea.

The bill is named after Otto Warmbier, a Cincinnati, Ohio, native who was wrongfully imprisoned by the brutal North Korean regime and died as a result of the injuries he sustained while in custody. This June 19th will mark the five-year anniversary of Otto’s passing. Senator Portman honored Otto’s memory on the Senate Floor earlier today.

“I am pleased that the Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act has finally passed the Senate today,” said Portman. “Otto Warmbier was the best of America, the Midwest, and Cincinnati. This legislation will help ensure that his memory lives on and that the brutal regime responsible for his unjust death is held accountable for this and its myriad of other human rights abuses. I urge my colleagues in the House to consider this legislation right away so that we can get it to the president’s desk.”

“Otto Warmbier’s treatment by North Korean authorities that ended in his death remains a powerful reminder of the brutality of Kim Jong Un’s regime,” said Brown. “This legislation reaffirms our commitment to combating North Korea’s human rights violations against its own people and others who have been held captive, and to countering North Korean surveillance, censorship and repression.”

“We remember and celebrate the life of Otto Warmbier, who was just twenty-two years old when his life was taken,” said Coons. “Otto lived those years to the fullest, and I am pleased to work with Senators Portman and Brown in commemorating his life through this legislation, which will serve to honor his memory.”

The Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act directs:

  • No later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the president must develop and submit to Congress a strategy on combating North Korea’s repressive information environment;
  • That the president may impose sanctions with respect to each person identified in the Act, via the blocking of their property in the U.S. or subject to U.S. jurisdiction and via ineligibility for visas, admission, or parole; and
  • The United States Agency for Global Media receive $10 million for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026 to provide increased broadcasting and grants for the following purposes:
    • To promote the development of internet freedom tools, technologies, and new approaches, including both digital and non-digital means of information sharing related to North Korea.
    • To explore public-private partnerships to counter North Korea’s repressive censorship and surveillance state.
    • To develop new means to protect the privacy and identity of individuals receiving media from the United States Agency for Global Media and other outside media outlets from within North Korea.
    • To bolster existing programming from the United States Agency for Global Media by restoring the broadcasting capacity of damaged antennas caused by Typhoon Yutu in 2018.