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USAGM names Freedom House president as new VOA director

FILE - The Voice of America building, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Washington.
FILE - The Voice of America building, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Washington.

The U.S. Agency for Global Media on Friday named Michael Abramowitz as the new permanent director of Voice of America.

In an email to staff Friday, USAGM chief executive Amanda Bennett said that Abramowitz, a former journalist and current president of the think tank Freedom House, will take up the position in coming months.

“I am sure he is familiar to many, if not most of you, for the remarkable work Freedom House has led advocating for democracy and human rights — and especially in defending and advocating for speech and press freedom around the world,” Bennett said in her email.

Michael Abramowitz was named permanent director of Voice of America on April 19, 2024. (Freedom House photo)
Michael Abramowitz was named permanent director of Voice of America on April 19, 2024. (Freedom House photo)

Abramowitz has been the president of Freedom House since 2017. A graduate of Harvard College, he began his career at the Washington Post, where he worked for 24 years. He also worked on genocide prevention and Holocaust education for eight years at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Because of this expertise and experience, he has a deep understanding of the same work we have all devoted our lives and careers to,” Bennett said in her email.

Abramowitz is expected to begin his role at VOA in the early summer. In a video message to staff, he said he was honored to be appointed.

“This is a storied institution which has an incredible history and most of all an incredible mission,” he said.

“The mission is deeply inspiring to me: the idea that every day we are providing authoritative, fair, comprehensive news and information to large parts of the world with a huge audience. And for many people VOA is the only source of that kind of information they have,” Abramowitz said.

Bennett herself served as VOA director from 2016 until 2020, when she resigned following the congressional confirmation of conservative filmmaker Michael Pack to lead USAGM.

Appointed by then-President Donald Trump, Pack’s time as head of USAGM was marked with lawsuits and whistleblower complaints. He resigned when Joe Biden became president and an independent investigation later determined that Pack repeatedly abused power and engaged in severe mismanagement, including attempts to interfere editorially.

Following his departure, Congress added checks and balances to the USAGM chief executive role, including over hiring and firing of network heads.

Abramowitz will be VOA’s first official director since the brief tenure of Pack’s appointee Robert Reilly, who was in the role from December 2020 to January 2021.

After Reilly’s dismissal, VOA was headed by acting directors Yolanda Lopez from 2021 until her September 2023 resignation, and current incumbent John Lippman.

In a statement, Abramowitz said he was looking forward to working at VOA given the concerning rate of disinformation coming from authoritarian governments around the world.

“VOA is a bulwark for truth and press freedom, and I am excited to take the helm of this organization and work alongside its talented journalists and staff. Together, we will win the information war,” he said.

Freedom House on Friday released a statement that thanked Abramowitz for his leadership.

“For the better part of a decade, Mike has been the driving force behind Freedom House’s growing success, setting a vision for the organization that amplified its effectiveness in the fight for freedom around the world,” said Jane Harman, a co-chair of the Freedom House board of trustees.

As VOA director, Abramowitz will oversee 48 language services that reach around 354 million people weekly with independent TV, radio and digital media.