VOA fails to report on death of Poland’s first post-communist prime minister, ignores White House statement

BBG Watch Commentary

White House Statement on Mazowiecki's DeathThe Voice of America (VOA) did not report Monday on the death of Poland’s first post-communist prime minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. VOA also did not report on the White House statement issued today (Tuesday) on the death of Tadeusz Mazowiecki.

BBC did report on his death yesterday and received hundreds of Facebook “Likes” for its news report. Poland’s former PM Tadeusz Mazowiecki dies aged 86, BBC, 28 October 2013 Last updated at 05:35 ET.

Russia Today posted a short news item from Reuters about Mazowiecki. Many U.S. and international newspapers reported yesterday on Mazowiecki’s death as well, noting his historic role in the peaceful transition from communism to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. While Mazowiecki was an advisor to Solidarity trade union and later Poland’s Prime Minister, he was interviewed several times by VOA.

In October 2009, a VOA report offered this assessment:

“Eventually, in January 1989 the ban on “Solidarity” was lifted. Later in the year, after free elections, a key “Solidarity” leader, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, became prime minister. Unchallenged communist rule in Poland came to an end. And in November 1989, in neighboring East Germany, the Berlin Wall came down.”

In 1991 Mazowiecki was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia. He also issued a 1993 report on human rights violations in the Former Yugoslavia. Mazowiecki stepped down in 1995 in protest at what he regarded as the international community’s insufficient response to atrocities committed during the Bosnian war, particularly the Srebrenica massacre committed by the Serb army that year.

Not reporting about Mazowiecki’s death or even the White House statement on the VOA English website is one of many news reporting failures at VOA. The VOA Bosnian service did post a short news item, but most other VOA language service sites did not.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), another international media outlet funded by U.S. taxpayers and overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), interviewed ex-Polish PM Jerzy Buzek on death of Tadeusz Mazowiecki, but it was VOA’s job to report on the White House statement, and also to report yesterday on his death like any other news organization.

Buzek: “All the decisions of Prime Minister Mazowiecki in [19]89-90 were [directed] towards the most important and difficult structural reforms in our country — towards full democracy and effective free market economy. So from this point of view, his political decisions were also [unparalleled].”

“Mazowiecki was also noted for support of Polish Jewry, re-establishing diplomatic relations with Israel in 1990 and condemning anti-Semitism,” JNS.org reported. Jewish Groups Mourn Former Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, 5Towns Jewish Times, October 29,2013.

“The Jews are grateful to Tadeusz Mazowiecki for his staunch defense of their rights as Poland emerged from Communism, and for his help in resolving the crisis of the Carmelite convent on the grounds of Auschwitz in the early 1990s. He will also be remembered for speaking out against anti-Semitism…May his memory be for a blessing,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said in a statement.

The White House issued this statement today, Wednesday, on Mazowiecki’s death, which so far has not been mentioned on the VOA English news website, 11:45PM ET, Tuesday, October 29, 2013. The statement was posted in English only on the State Department website.

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 29, 2013

Statement by the Press Secretary on the Passing of Tadeusz Mazowiecki

We were saddened yesterday to learn of the passing of Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a tireless and devoted advocate for human rights and democracy who persevered through imprisonment and hardship to become the first Prime Minister of a free Poland. For decades, Mazowiecki worked to build a movement in opposition to the oppression and injustice of Communism. When strikes broke out at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk in August 1980, Mazowiecki helped forge the lasting ties between shipyard workers and anti-communist intellectuals that propelled the Solidarity movement to become a transformational force in Polish society.

Mazowiecki subsequently endured prison during Poland’s martial law, but he inspired millions in August 1989, when he was approved by the Sejm to become the first non-Communist Prime Minister behind the Iron Curtain in more than four decades. His contributions to freedom and human rights live on today and will never be forgotten. We extend our condolences to Mazowiecki’s family and all those in Poland and around the world who remain inspired by his example.

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