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USAGM CEO Defends Firings After Senators Expressed Concerns


FILE - The facade of the Voice of America building is seen in Washington, June 15, 2020.
FILE - The facade of the Voice of America building is seen in Washington, June 15, 2020.

Amid concerns expressed by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators over some of his actions, U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Michael Pack said in a letter he is committed to fixing management issues in the agency after being tasked with making “bold and meaningful changes."

The letter, dated July 8 and obtained by the Associated Press and CNBC, came in response to one he received from a bipartisan group of senators. The senators' letter said Pack acted without consulting or notifying Congress, and that his decisions to fire the heads of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Open Technology Fund “raise serious questions” about the future of the agency, which also includes Voice of America, under his leadership.

“The president, the American people, and the Senate asked me to make bold and meaningful changes,” Pack said. “Indeed, throughout the confirmation process, and in the weeks since taking the helm, I made clear my commitment to fixing the widely known management issues that have long beleaguered USAGM and, in turn, its institutions.”

“During the confirmation process, I pledged to respect and protect the independence of the USAGM journalists, and I stand by that pledge," Pack said. "I also wish to reiterate my firm commitment to honoring the VOA Charter and to supporting the missions of the other USAGM networks and our heroic journalists around the world. As an agency, through accurate and reliable reporting, we have to get the truth to those starved for it.”

The VOA Charter, signed into law in 1976, requires VOA to be “accurate, objective, and comprehensive” in its reporting; to provide “a balanced and comprehensive” account of American opinion, and to describe U.S. government policies “clearly and effectively.”

In addition to the concerns of members of the Senate, a group of 11 Democrats in the House of Representatives said in a letter to the heads of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Program that they were “deeply concerned about the firings of qualified leadership” and “reports that USAGM has frozen funds and grants" for programs aimed at evading censorship and providing tools for internet freedom in Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Beyond personnel and budgetary matters, the lawmakers expressed concern that the agency's "truth-based reporting and programming" would be jeopardized if its editorial independence was eroded.

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