BBG Watch Commentary
The independent and nonpartisan NGO Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org) has a press release on the need for a congressional investigation of Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and Voice of America (VOA) upper management for its handling of the 4-19-2017 Guo Wengui interview and its treatment of VOA Chinese Branch journalists.
April 10, 2018
For Immediate Release
CUSIB has released the following statement regarding Voice of America China Service and the Need for a Congressional Investigation:
CUSIB has learned that the Monday, April 10, 2018 VOA China Service meeting with VOA Director Amanda Bennett and China Branch Chief Ernie Torriero was more of a disappointment than most could have imagined.
Some of the journalists who were present said they had a chance to listen to patronizing comments by Upper Management, telling them all how great their work is and what “pros” they all are, as well as how great their new Chief is, even though, as they point out, he doesn’t speak Chinese.
According to one VOA journalist who declined to be named because of fear of retaliation: “Amanda Bennett’s biggest flaw is that she doesn’t understand VOA’s mission. She treats it as any other news organization, but we are not. A few days ago, she said in an email that our mission is to tell American stories and provide information to those who can’t access them otherwise.”
Yet Upper Management is making it difficult for VOA China Service to report on news censored by the government in Beijing and to deliver such news to those who can’t get them otherwise without exposing themselves to surveillance, journalists say.
Despite the recent onslaught of attention about China’s use of digital media for surveillance purposes, and its government’s goal for social control, VOA’s radio and television broadcast services to China continue to be minimized by Management.
Major media outlets throughout the United States, including the Washington Post, [Beijing bets on facial recognition in a big drive for total surveillance, January 7, 2018]; the New York Times [China’s Oppression Reaches Beyond Its Borders, April 9, 2018], and the Atlantic [China’s Surveillance State Should Scare Everyone, February 2, 2018] have written exhaustively about these concerns in their news coverage and op-ed columns, yet VOA Upper Management is choosing to ignore the obvious in its decisions regarding China Service.
VOA Upper Management who were in attendance at the March 14, 2018 BBG Meeting had the chance to listen to reports by Radio Free Asia (RFA) about China’s oppressive use of surveillance on Uyghurs Muslims. If Upper Management is in fact concerned about how to reach their target audience, with this in mind, it should have to include more funding for radio and television and allow VOA China journalists to focus far more on reporting what the Chinese government is actually doing rather than on reporting what the Chinese officials say as part of their propaganda and disinformation.
CUSIB remains dedicated to the work of radio broadcast journalists who seek to reach listeners inside China who are poor, who live in remote villages, and also those who do not wish to be under surveillance the way cell phones and computers are used by the government to monitor people in China.
CUSIB was told by a reporter that VOA journalists and management are not at all on the same page: “That’s how pathetic it is, when the world is looking at China’s aggressiveness with a heavy heart, and Management at VOA is talking about balancing out our reporting,” by insisting on including “for balance” statements from Chinese communist party officials.
CUSIB learned that a quick discussion about the possible elimination of Cantonese Service showed this is still a concern. We await the appointment of a Bureau Chief, and some commitment from Upper Management that Hong Kongers will not be forgotten in the BBG’s management of budgetary funding.
CUSIB has also learned that even though the 4-19 anniversary of the interruption a live-stream VOA broadcast interview with Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui on orders of Upper Management as he spoke about corruption in China, 3 of the VOA Mandarin 5 journalists are still on forced leave.
CUSIB urges Congress to hold immediate hearings about the suspension of the VOA Mandarin journalists, and to investigate Upper Management’s responsibility for the 4-19 incident and the plight of the rank and file journalists whose reputations have been completely tarnished by BBG/VOA executives and administrators.
For further information, please contact:
Ann Noonan, CUSIB Executive Director
Ted Lipien, CUSIB Director
Disclosure: Ted Lipien is one of the co-founders and supporters of BBG Watch.