The U.S. Agency for Global Media announced that former VOA journalist Ted Lipien will return to run Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, the current acting director at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, will become director.
The appointments follow USAGM CEO Michael Pack's December 9 announcement that former Voice of America director Robert Reilly would return to lead that network.
Lipien joined VOA in 1973 and worked as the chief of the Polish language service and later as a senior news and marketing executive until 2006. For 10 years, Lipien worked in Munich and Prague as the Eurasia regional marketing director, helping VOA and RFE/RL place programs on stations across the region. In an announcement sent to staff, he recalled listening to Radio Free Europe while growing up in communist Poland.
“I’m honored, and humbled, to be entrusted with helping this storied organization continue to break the hold of censorship and give voice to the silenced,” he wrote.
Since leaving U.S. broadcasting, Lipien has been a vocal critic of VOA’s and USAGM’s previous leaders. He has also defended Pack’s tenure as CEO, saying Pack has focused on correcting long-running issues of bias and mismanagement at the networks.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a nonprofit multimedia broadcasting organization funded by U.S. Congress grants. Based in Prague, it serves as a surrogate media source in 27 languages, mostly in places where a free press remains either banned or not fully established.
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro has been with the Office of Cuba Broadcasting since July 2017. In announcing Shapiro's new position, Pack cited his deep connections to local communities in South Florida and his track record in producing objective news.
“Transmitting objective news and information to the island plays a critical role in moving toward a free Cuba, and it is a privilege to be a part of such an important mission,” Shapiro wrote in a published statement.
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting oversees Radio and Television Marti, based in Miami, Florida. The network provides news, information and analysis to the people of Cuba via satellite television and shortwave radio, as well as flash drives, DVDs and text messages.
Pack was confirmed by the Senate as CEO in June with a three-year term and fired several news executives upon his arrival. He later declined to testify before a House of Representatives panel examining his decisions at the agency, including his decision to fire the heads of RFE/RL, Radio Free Asia and OCB, and replace their boards. The then-director of VOA, Amanda Bennett, resigned two days before Pack joined the agency.
Last month a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting Pack and other USAGM officials from interfering with the editorial independence and First Amendment rights of journalists at VOA and other networks they oversee. The ruling still allows Pack to appoint leaders of those news networks to oversee them.
The November 20 court order prohibits the CEO and other defendants from communicating directly with journalists at the networks without the consent of their directors. The order is part of a lawsuit filed by five USAGM officials whom Pack placed on administrative leave in August. The suit accuses Pack and his political appointees of unlawful actions and of violating the First Amendment and a statutory firewall set up to ensure editorial independence. Pack has said the lawsuit is "without merit" and that all of his and his team's decisions and actions are "correct and lawful."
Earlier this month, a federal office set up to protect whistleblowers ordered USAGM to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by its own top officials.