USAGM Watch Commentary
In November 2022, a group of Voice of America (VOA) Russian Service journalists protested against the leadership of the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s (USAGM) decisions on recent hiring of journalists, claiming that some of these newly hired broadcasters’ previous work in Russia for Vladimir Putin’s state media was not adequately evaluated by the agency before the VOA management employed them. The VOA and USAGM management ignored these protests until The Kyiv Post in Ukraine had a report in February 2023 on the rebellion at the VOA Russian Service. The Washington Post also published at about the same time a story by its reporter Paul Farhi on the VOA-USAGM management scandal before VOA issued its news report, which was later partially censored.
Kyiv Post reported in February that according to the Voice of America’s spokesperson, “management was satisfied” that the VOA journalists named in the letter signed by several other VOA journalists “can make a strong contribution to the VOA Russian Service and like all other VOA journalists, their work goes through the standard VOA editing processes.”
Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, Pablo González, a Voice of America’s Spanish-Russian freelance journalist, is in a Polish prison, under investigation for spying for Russia—charges, he vehemently denies. The same lawyer who defended Edward Snowden has taken González’s case.
Another Spanish reporter who openly bragged about his earlier reporting in the Russian-occupied part of Ukraine for Putin’s RT propaganda channel was also employed by VOA under the watch of the current executives. The then-Voice of America director Amanda Bennett received warnings already in 2019 that VOA had hired Russian journalists who had produced anti-U.S. propaganda.
Acting VOA director Yolanda López, and the senior leadership of USAGM, led by CEO and former VOA director Amanda Bennett and her deputy Kelu Chao, have not explained the selection of Pablo González to be a Voice of America freelancer. They also have not answered questions whom else they may have employed without checking their backgrounds and previous work?
Today, VOA English News website posted a report, stating that “Voice of America this week chose not to renew the contract of a former Russian state media journalist who was placed on leave in February from VOA’s Russian-language service following complaints about his prior employment at pro-Kremlin outlets.” The journalist whose contract was not renewed insisted that he had done nothing wrong.
Senior USAGM and VOA executives have consistently avoided taking responsibility for their longstanding failure to adequately manage the agency’s employee vetting and security process.
VOICE OF AMERICA (VOA NEWS) REPORT[To illustrate its news report, Voice of America editors chose to use an old photograph showing the previous name of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which until 2018 was called the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).]
June 16, 2023 4:56 PM
Voice of America this week chose not to renew the contract of a former Russian state media journalist who was placed on leave in February from VOA’s Russian-language service following complaints about his prior employment at pro-Kremlin outlets.
A second former Russian state media journalist who was placed on leave at the same time remains employed at the Russian Service.