Ann Noonan, Executive Director of the independent NGO Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB.org) spoke in Washington, DC at the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s (USAGM) Board of Governors open meeting on June 5, 2019. She discussed a continuing management crisis at the $800 million federal agency by focusing on the Voice of America (VOA) and USAGM leadership’s mishandling of programs to China and mistreatment of VOA Mandarin Service employees.
CUSIB remains concerned about VOA Mandarin Service
By Ann Noonan, Executive Director, Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB) – an independent NGO
Thirty years ago, Voice of America’s China Service was celebrated for its excellent coverage before, during and after the Tiananmen Square Massacre. No responsible journalist at that time would have stopped their coverage to ask Chinese officials responsible for the massacre, for their justification for ordering the tanks to roll over their own people.
Since that time, however, CCP officials have been gradually included in many VOA interviews, supposedly to balance the story. How can this be part of VOA’s mission?
When VOA Mandarin Service cut a widely advertised interview of the controversial billionaire tycoon and China critic Guo Wengui back on April 19, 2017, its integrity suffered greatly as Chinese listeners throughout the world were left with the impression that someone wanted to suppress what he had to say.
More recently, when the last 2 excellent VOA Mandarin Service journalists were fired in the aftermath of this scandal, we have learned about an even deeper loss in morale at VOA among workers.
How can this agency believe they have put this matter to bed by firing these 2 least liable employees? What did they do that was so wrong? Failing to censor and cut off the interview as quickly as they were ordered to?
Would the agency have escaped any embarrassment or protected the integrity of the program had these fired employees more quickly cut the interview off at the one hour and eleven minute mark instead of one hour eighteen minute mark?
Would there have been any less of a scandal?
Who was responsible for approving the mid-broadcast shift?
These last 2 employees were fired 30 years since the Tiananmen massacre, at a time when we recall those brave journalists who risked life and limb by being in harms way to document what the Chinese Communist Party had done to their own people.
Yet with that outstanding example of journalistic bravery, being remembered now 30 years after those events, what can we now say about the agency that succumbs to vague threats to VOA journalists and reacts by censoring an interview mid-broadcast because the interviewee might have embarrassing news about China?
Again, we appeal to the US Congress who has oversight of VOA to investigate this case. It’s not going away, and until the matter is resolved, VOA’s reputation will remain scarred and suspect.
We also ask for these employees to be reinstated.
During this age of global media, can’t BBG Management and certainly this this Board realize the importance of soft power?
Finally, is VOA China Branch currently headed by a Chief who doesn’t speak nor read Chinese? If so, how come and who is he relying upon for direction? Shouldn’t someone who is Chinese or speaks and reads Chinese, and is familiar with Chinese tradition, culture and history head VOA China Service?
In the absence of Congressional oversight and review, CUSIB is concerned this agency’s mission and purpose will continue to decline.