January 19, 2021

Voice of America journalists are demanding the resignation of top executives and the marginalization of two employees

WASHINGTON – The Voice of America is a group of journalists Signed a letter They demanded the resignation of the director of the VOA and his deputy, accusing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of using the network to “run a campaign event” and of the “sudden and unexplained” reforms of the chief news editor and White House reporter.

Journalists said the actions of VOA Director Robert Reilly and Deputy Director Elizabeth Robbins violated the network’s decades – long charter, which says the U.S. funding center did not speak for the U.S. government, according to a letter from NBC News.

Michael Pack recently appointed Reilly and Robbins, President Donald Trump’s head of the parent company that oversees VOA, the U.S. agency for global media.

The letter was sent to Pack, Reilly and Robbins, and has so far been signed by two dozen journalists from VOA staff of about 1,000.

At the network’s headquarters in Washington on Monday, Pompeo delivered a speech live on VOA, praising the virtues of America’s free press and accusing the United States of having too much negative information in the past. Broadcasters’ reporters were barred from asking questions and the outside media were not allowed to attend, according to journalists who spoke with the letter and NBC News.

Pompeo “used this opportunity to try to lead VOA journalists to stop the critical coverage of the United States”, and Reilly, who was on stage with the Secretary of State, “did not challenge him – an insult to our international audience,” the letter said.

Patsy Vidakuswara, a White House reporter and VOA journalist, tried to ask Pompeo questions after his speech. Hours later, he was ordered to block the White House pulse, NBC News reported earlier.

According to the letter, after Vidakuswara tried to ask Pompeo about America’s image abroad after attacking Capitol last week, Reilly shouted at her: “” You do not know how to behave. … You are random! “”

Journalists condemned Riley’s response. “Let us be clear: it is not uncommon for VOA journalists to ask questions of US government officials. This is our job.”

Vidakuswara was kicked out of the White House a few hours after the event, he had recently worked for Pompeo, and “has no press experience,” the letter said.

The VOA declined to comment and the global media outlet did not respond to requests for comment.

The letter said Vidakuswara’s reshuffle sends a dangerous message to every VOA journalist that they will be punished if they ask an important question.

“The Voice of America was founded on the belief that all nations deserve honest and credible news without the intervention of their governments. Unfortunately, events on Monday shook that foundation,” the letter said.

The VOA was established for the purpose of reporting on events in the United States for foreign visitors during World War II. The global media agency is the parent of several foreign language broadcasting services to Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Cuba, which have a large international audience.

Since Pack took charge at the agency last year, he has fired senior executives and management committees, refused to renew visas for dozens of foreign journalists and faced stern rebuke from Congress and a federal judge. Press freedom groups and lawmakers have accused President Donald Trump’s government of trying to turn the media into propaganda mouthpieces.

Pack dismissed the criticism, saying he would return the networks to their original function and that past coverage was somewhat politically biased.

It is not clear why Pack changed key staff just days before a new management took office. President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear that his team plans to shoot the pack.

It appears they are “trying to burn that space on the way out,” a VOA journalist, who spoke of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the network’s management.