CUSIB’s Ann Noonan calls for management reforms at Voice of America

Ann Noonan, Executive Director of the Committee for International Broadcasting (CUSIB)

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Ann Noonan, Executive Director of the independent NGO, the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org), spoke as a member of the public at the BBG meeting in Washington on Wednesday, August 13, 2014, calling for urgent management reforms at the Voice of America. She mentioned VOA English News failure to report on the House Foreign Affairs Committee testimony by a former Syrian Army photographer about evidence of killings and torture by the Syrian regime. A meeting Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes had with the former Syrian Army photographer who documented crimes in Syria was also not reported by VOA English News.

Noonan also said that VOA English News had only one sentence on the meeting Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes had last week at the White House with members of the Iraqi Yezidi community to discuss the dire humanitarian situation in northern Iraq, particularly as it impacts the Yezidi community and other ethnic and religious minority groups, including Christians, Turkmen, and Shabak. [Update: It took VOA English News several days to issue a full-length report on the White House meeting.]

She also said that VOA was not updating its Kurdish Service website, Facebook and Twitter, sometimes for up to 11 hours, while tens of thousands of Kurdish speaking refugees were being pursued by the Islamic fighters, stranded without food on a mountain in northern Iraq, and being supplied by the U.S. military in one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies of recent years.

Noonan also said that it took VOA Kurdish Service a few hours to report online on President Obama’s major statement on the humanitarian situation in Iraq — and when it did, it had only four short sentences.

“How could VOA and IBB management allow this to happen?,” CUSIB Executive Director Ann Noonan asked at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) open meeting attended (through a video link) by Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting Ben Rhodes. Rick Stengel, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, was at the meeting.

Ann Noonan also mentioned inaccurate Voice of America English News reporting on the UN report on casualties in eastern Ukraine that tended to boost the Kremlin’s dubious propaganda claims.

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STATEMENT BY COMMITTEE FOR U.S. INTERNATIONAL BROADCASTING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ANN NOONAN

Link to BBG video on YouTube.

AUGUST 13, 2014

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I’d like to start by asking why the BBG’s legal department has still not complied with its requirement to provide the remaining pages for our FOIA request of September 19, 2013, which asked for copies of all of former IBB Director’s emails about a former BBG Governor. Can the Governors please let CUSIB know when these documents will be provided?

The Broadcasting Board of Governors should immediately do something about the management meltdown at the Voice of America.

How can VOA not update its Kurdish Service website, Facebook and Twitter for up to 11 hours while tens of thousands of Kurdish speaking refugees are being pursued by the Islamic fighters, stranded without food on a mountain, and being supplied by the U.S. military in one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies of recent years?

How could VOA and IBB management allow this to happen?

Let me also point out that as late as two weeks ago, the agency’s bureaucracy talked about and wanted to cut ALL VOA Kurdish shortwave transmissions — the only link now to these refugees, without food and electricity, but perhaps some with battery operated radios.

VOA’s senior executives are not in touch with their language services and are not helping to guide them and provide them with resources at critical moments for international audiences and for the United States. It took VOA Kurdish Service a few hours to report Saturday online on President Obama’s major statement on the humanitarian situation in Iraq — and when it did, it had only four short sentences.

VOA English News had only one sentence on the meeting Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes had last week at the White House with members of the Iraqi Yezidi community to discuss the dire humanitarian situation in northern Iraq, particularly as it impacts the Yezidi community and other ethnic and religious minority groups, including Christians, Turkmen, and Shabak.

Every day, there are examples of VOA News failures, such as not reporting at all on the House Foreign Affairs Committee testimony last week by a former Syrian Army photographer about evidence of killings and torture by the Syrian regime. A meeting Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes had with the former Syrian Army photographer who documented crimes in Syria was not reported by VOA English News.

In another incident, VOA interrupted live radio transmission to Africa of President Obama’s major speech about Africa and failed to report on critical comments on U.S. Africa policy from key members of Congress, including Senator Menendez and Congressman Royce.

Just two days ago, VOA English News reported inaccurately on the UN report about casualties in eastern Ukraine and gave a boost to propaganda from the Russian government by its inaccurate reporting.

This is happening at VOA again and again. There is a breakdown of leadership, management and editorial controls at the Voice of America and the BBG must take immediate steps to address this situation.

Thank you.

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