Accessibility links

Breaking News

VOA Faced Challenges During Vietnam, Watergate - 2002-05-28

A VOA Snapshot - Part of the continuing coverage in this, VOA's 60th Anniversary Year

The Voice of America is proud of its freedom to report the news objectively, accurately and without political interference. That's the essence of the VOA charter, first drafted in the 1950s. But it has not always been easy.

Former VOA correspondent Sean Kelly recalls that 30 years ago as the Nixon Administration pursued the war in Vietnam, it tried to control news from the battlefield. But he says VOA was determined to report the whole story.

"VOA reporters went into the field, flew combat missions, tried to find out what was really happening in the war. We started treating the official briefings and communiques as a point of departure, which they should have been all along," Mr. Kelly said.

VOA's Watergate coverage faced a similar challenge. The Nixon Administration's involvement in illegal activities was being reported almost exclusively by The Washington Post. Administration officials tried to curb VOA's coverage with an impossible demand - that a second source be cited in all accounts of the newspaper's Watergate articles. But VOA stayed with the story using White House denials of the Post articles as its "second source."

Bernard Kamenske, VOA news director at the time, said it was the efforts to censor VOA's Watergate and Vietnam War coverage that led the U.S. Congress make the VOA Charter a law in 1976.

"I regret that it was necessary. The mandate to be accurate, objective and comprehensive should not have had to be written into law. But as the events proceeded it was that necessary," he said.

The Charter remains in force today, shielding VOA from political interference and providing an enduring standard of journalistic ethics.

Listen for VOA Snapshots throughout our 60th anniversary year, here on VOA.

To write to us about our anniversary, send an email to Or, send regular mail to
VOA News Now
Washington, D.C. 20237 USA.