President Donald Trump has orchestrated a hostile takeover of a government funded but editorially independent news service that has brought impartial, factual news to 280 million people around the world where it is often in short supply — such as in authoritarian regimes that prohibit free speech and a free press including Cuba, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and China.
The respected Voice of America and its affiliates — including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Middle East Broadcasting, the Open Technology Fund and Radio Free Asia — are all part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which this month came under the leadership of Trump appointee Michael Pack, a mentee and ally of Steve Bannon.
The global news service, which operates in 61 languages and employs more than 1,100 journalists, was founded in 1942 to provide news free of government interference and to always observe the firewall that separates news from propaganda — a protection that is at the heart of independent journalism.
Bannon celebrated by telling the Washington Times, “Now patriots can begin the process of cleaning up the mess she (former Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett, former editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner) leaves behind.”
Many worry that Pack, reportedly under investigation by the D.C. attorney general for alleged self-dealing, will alter the content of Voice of America and its affiliates to promote the Trump administration in violation of its charter, “to be accurate, objective and comprehensive.”
Obviously this classifies as another move designed to transform U.S. institutions founded in the principles of democracy into instruments for the president’s own personal agenda.
In providing objective reporting, even about U.S. leaders, Voice of America has served as a model for journalists everywhere who want to emulate America’s free press.
Now America shows a different façade to the world, where another despotic autocrat is consolidating power to substitute propaganda for truthful, factual reporting.