USAGM Watch Commentary
UPDATE: Five days after Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) issued his statement on Wednesday April 7, which was critical of U.S. Agency of Global Media (USAGM) CEO Kelu Chao’s appointment of new Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) Radio and Television Martí Director, three days after a VOA report on it was written on Friday but not released, and two days after USAGM Watch first signaled VOA’s delay in releasing the story, VOA English News posted its report on Senator Menendez’s criticism on Monday, April 12 at 8:26 AM. SEE: https://www.voanews.com/usa/usagm-pick-lead-cuba-broadcasting-draws-criticism-senator
VOA sources told USAGM Watch that a Voice of America report on Senator Bob Menendez’s (D. N.J.) criticism of U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEO Kelu Chao’s choice of Sylvia Rosabal to serve as Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), overseeing Radio and Television Martí, was written but is not being posted since Friday. In a statement released on Wednesday April 7, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said: “While I respect Ms. Rosabal’s journalism credentials, I do not think she is the right person to lead the OCB.”
I am concerned that she is of the view of accommodation with the Cuban regime rather than of challenging its human rights violations and denial of democratic freedoms to its people. Therefore, I will be seeking specific information on how she intends to promote the cause of freedom, the principles of a free press and of free speech in Cuba. The OCB Director needs to have a clear plan on how our broadcasting and surrogate broadcasting into the island can serve as a reliable and authoritative source of accurate, objective, and comprehensive news, commentary, and other information about events in Cuba and elsewhere in the context of the Castro regime’s authoritarian efforts to control information and access to information.
According to VOA sources, the VOA News report about Senator Menendez‘s criticism was written two days later on Friday morning and was edited by morning and afternoon shift editors but as of late Sunday evening, it has not been posted on the VOA News English, https://www.voanews.com, VOA Spanish, https://www.vozdeamerica.com, or any other VOA website USAGM Watch volunteer journalists have looked at today. A quick check of Radio and Television Martí, website, https://www.radiotelevisionmarti.com, also does not show any results for Menendez and Rosabal names related to Senator Menendez’s statement.
The reasons for the Voice of America editors and/or management not posting the already written VOA report about Senator Menendez’s criticism USAGM Acting CEO’s appointment for OCB are not known. Spanish-language media in the U.S. have reported on his statement, as have some English-language news outlets. Five days after Senator Menendez issued his statement, the Voice of America is still not reporting on his criticism on the agency’s section of the new OCB director.
The Democratic Senator from New Jersey was also critical of former Trump-appointed USAGM CEO Michael Pack who resigned on the day of President Biden’s inauguration after being informed that Biden would fire him if he did not. Kelu Chao was a whistleblower in a court case brought against Pack that claimed that he had tried to interfere with Voice of America programming. Pack argued that some VOA programs were partisan and violated the legal requirements of the VOA Charter, which mandates that all VOA news must be accurate, balanced and comprehensive, in addition to accurately describing U.S. government policies. Pack alleged that many of Voice of America employees and contractors were hired without proper security clearances. Critics accused him for not extending employment contracts and work visas for some of the broadcasters without a just cause. Senator Menendez was extremely critical of Michael Pack’s management of the agency.
Kelu Chao was one of the top VOA executives under former VOA Director Amanda Bennett. Under their watch, VOA employed a reporter who had previously worked for the Russian propaganda outlet RT and another reporter who previously produced anti-U.S. Russian propaganda with conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic themes. VOA Mandarin Service broadcast several unchallenged Chinese government propaganda videos during the same period.
Kelu Chao, a longtime VOA executive, was appointed acting USAGM CEO by the Biden White House immediately after Pack resigned. She promptly fired some of Pack’s appointees and brought back former executives he had suspended. Chao appointed Yolanda López, a native of Barcelona, Spain, as Acting VOA Director on January 21, 2021. Chao made her announcement on April 7 that she selected Sylvia Rosabal to be the new Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. The link for a longer bio for Kelu Chao as Acting Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, does not work on the USAGM official website, https://www.usagm.gov/who-we-are/management-team-3/.
“While I respect Ms. Rosabal’s journalism credentials, I do not think she is the right person to lead the OCB,” Senator Menendez said in a statement posted on his official U.S. Senate website also on April 7.
“I am concerned that she is of the view of accommodation with the Cuban regime rather than of challenging its human rights violations and denial of democratic freedoms to its people,” Senator Menendez also said in his statement.
We know of no response from Kelu Chao or from Sylvia Rosabal.
Voice of America sources said that three days ago VOA editors could not get a comment from the USAGM front office.
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