USAGM Watch Commentary
As signaled by Voice of America’s (VOA) insider whistleblowers, reported by the Washington Times, and confirmed by former VOA journalists, VOA editors trusted and posted online one-source information from Hamas, which turned out to be false and was incendiary. VOA rejected what their management in the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) described as a “one-source” denial from Israel for a November 9 VOA story with the headline, “Israeli strikes” hit Gaza’s largest hospital,” and posted a report based on a one-source false information from Hamas. “The story remained prominently displayed even after Israeli officials denied involvement and said the blasts were likely from Hamas rocket-propelled grenades,” the Washington Times reported.
Daniel Robinson, described by the Washington Times as “a former VOA White House, congressional and foreign correspondent and outspoken critic of the network and of USAGM” told the paper that VOA did not publish the Israeli denial until November 10 but buried it deep inside the story. The original November 9 VOA story remained online without any corrections until at least November 17.
In a response to a media inquiry from Robinson, the Voice of America spokesperson said on November 17 that VOA would add an editor’s note to the original story reflecting Israel’s denial. According to the explanation he received, the original VOA report was based on wire services. VOA claimed that only one service carried Israel’s denial, which VOA could not confirm and, therefore, did not include in its report.
Voice of America editors did not explain why they could not contact the Israeli authorities by telephone or include the denial when it was more widely reported. VOA also did not explain how a one-source information from Hamas reported by more than one wire service is not in reality a “one-source” news from a terrorist organization with a long history of providing false and misleading information.
In justifying its decisions to Robinson, VOA cited a “two-source rule” that it uses to post information when two or more wire agencies have the same report.
“It is indeed amateur hour at VOA,” Daniel Robinson told the Washington Times.
“VOA maintained pro-Hamas headlines and content online for more than a week when Israeli denials were available.”
He also criticized the network’s unwillingness to label Hamas as terrorists.
“There is no moral equivalency. To avoid saying ‘Hamas terrorists’ and for key VOA reporting staff to try to draw a connection with the occupation, is absurd,” he said.
Some Washington Times readers also found the explanations from VOA and USAGM management absurd. One reader left a comment:
They should not have published the story about the hospital in the first place since there was only one source for that story: Hamas, which the other so called “news services” just repeated what that one source said.
I call BS on their explanation.
Another reader commented:
How can they continue to call it Voice of America, when it is not?
Daniel Robinson criticized a recent statement from USAGM CEO Amanda Bennett who served as VOA director from 2016 to 2020. She praised and promoted many of the managers and editors now in charge of VOA.
“She [Amanda Bennett] doubles down on VOA policy that endorses Hamas being described as some freedom fighting group,” Mr. Robinson said.
VOA managers object to calling Hamas “terrorists.” They issued a directive to VOA writers and editors that members of Hamas should be called instead “militants” or “fighters.” No explanation was given how someone who deliberately targets and kills women and children who cannot fight back can still be called a “fighter.” One senior VOA correspondent wrote in an e-mail to colleagues: “We can do that. Per Hamas the aim of the attack was “to free Palestinian prisoners, stop Israeli aggression on al-Aqsa Mosque, and to break the siege on Gaza.” VOA reporters were urged to write that “the militant group’s attack was done in retaliation for Israel’s decades-long occupation.”
VOA journalists were ordered by the management not to use the word “terrorists” in news reports to describe Hamas attackers, who, on October 7, targeted, murdered, and kidnapped defenseless Israeli civilians, as well as some American citizens and civilians of other nationalities, including women, children, and the elderly.