BBG Watch Commentary
As reported by the Voice of America (VOA), “Sunday marks 28 years since Chinese tanks rolled into crowds of demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, opening fire and killing hundreds of pro-democracy activists. Some estimates put the total number of dead in the thousands.” A VOA report also said that “China’s government refers to the event as the June 4th Incident and downplays its severity. Discussion of the event in media or textbooks is largely forbidden.”
What VOA did not report is that five outstanding and courageous VOA Mandarin Service broadcasters, who for many years have been reporting the truth about the Tiananmen Square Massacre, are not able to work. They have been placed on administrative leave by senior Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and Voice of America officials, at least some of whom are believed to have corporate or family business interests in China. The agency’s management reportedly has hired at U.S. taxpayers’ expense an individual who promotes U.S. businesses in China to investigate these five VOA journalists.
We offer the two official Voice of America and Broadcasting Board of Governors announcements from senior executives, which are reposted below, as well as the BBG Management Accountability Charter, in addition to the featured image as a BBG Watch commentary on the plight of the VOA Mandarin Service journalists who have been placed by the agency’s management on administrative leave with pay over the Guo Wengui interview.
“The decisions regarding the interview with Guo Wengui were made by a group of senior VOA leaders led by director Amanda Bennett and included deputy director Sandy Sugawara, program director Kelu Chao, and East Asia division director Norm Goodman,” the official Voice of America announcement said.
The senior VOA management also announced last month that “VOA Mandarin Service Chief Sasha Gong and four other Mandarin Service employees have been placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation.”
How accountable is the senior management of the U.S. taxpayer-funded federal agency in charge of American media outreach abroad?
VOA STATEMENT ON GUO WENGUI INTERVIEW
From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Friday, May 5, 2017 11:42:47 AM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: VOA Statement on Guo Wengui Interview
As you may be aware, there has been a lot of attention to a recent interview conducted by VOA Mandarin. In response to media inquiries on the matter, the following statement was issued and also shared at a VOA Mandarin town hall earlier this week.
VOA Statement on Guo Wengui Interview
VOA Mandarin Service Chief Sasha Gong and four other Mandarin Service employees have been placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation. Scott Stearns, managing editor in the VOA Africa division, will be the acting Mandarin Service chief until further notice. The decisions regarding the interview with Guo Wengui were made by a group of senior VOA leaders led by director Amanda Bennett and included deputy director Sandy Sugawara, program director Kelu Chao, and East Asia division director Norm Goodman. At no time during the decision-making process was there any management consideration of not doing the interview, nor of cutting short an ongoing interview for any reason. The decisions were based on the journalistic principles of verification, balance and fairness that are standard industry practice and apply universally to all VOA services. There are no special exemptions for individual services to follow different practices. There was no input whatsoever from the U.S. government, nor would the firewall permit any such input. Pressure from the Chinese government played no role in any decision-making. VOA and the BBG have decades’-long histories of producing full fair and balanced journalism in the face of even the most extreme pressures.
Amanda Bennett, Director
330 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20237
END OF VOA STATEMENT
Statement of Sasha Gong, Dong Fang, Bao Shen, and Su Li
We, the four Voice of America journalists who have been placed on administrative leave pending a VOA internal investigation, believe that the incident regarding Guo Wengui’s interview has seriously undermined VOA’s integrity and credibility as a US media outlet, and damaged the US national interests.
We request the following:
An independent, fair, and comprehensive federal investigation on the incident of the interview with Guo, the Chinese businessman-turned whistleblower who intended to expose how Chinese state security agencies control huge sum of financial assets for ruling the country and injecting influence around the world.
We request the investigation by authorities independent from Voice of America to cover all parties involved in the incident, including the VOA top management.
The issues to be investigated should be:
Has the VOA top management caved in to the Chinese government’s threat and demand to cancel VOA’s original interview and broadcast plan. If so, how?
Is there a possibility of the Chinese government being able to exercise influence within VOA, especially the East Asia Division?
The Guo interview incident is only the latest example of a series of events and changes happened in the VOA Chinese Branch in recent years that have systematically undermined the effectiveness of VOA broadcasting to China and demoralized the staff in the Branch.
END OF STATEMENT
MESSAGE TO EMPLOYEES FROM BBG CEO JOHN LANSING
From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Friday, May 5, 2017 3:14:44 PM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey
The past twelve months have passed quickly, and we are less than a month from the launch of this year’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). On May 9, FEVS will be available for a six-week period during which all federal employees will have the opportunity to give their thoughts on factors that drive engagement, satisfaction, and motivation in the workplace. I encourage every employee to complete this year’s survey. Participation is confidential. Results will be evaluated closely by my team and agency leadership, and will inform action plans and solutions. You can learn more about the FEVS here.
Two years ago, we created Workplace Solutions, a framework for cross-functional teams to address issues identified in our survey results. Many of the teams have completed their work, while others are still working on implementation plans. Some results of this effort include a dedicated internal communications team, a front entry monitor to promote activities, a revamped Mentoring Program, and a robust incentive awards program that included $1.1M in cash awards and 2,000 hours in time-off hours being awarded to employees in 2016. And recently, Workplace Solutions launched beta version of an interactive organization chart with links to our agency directory.
Workplace Solutions is an ongoing, agency-wide effort which welcomes the participation of any interested employee. If you would like to get involved or have a suggestion to improve the agency, send a note to WorkPlaceSolutions@bbg.gov.
In this vein, I would like to share additional updates on leadership development at BBG. Last spring, I issued my commitment letter to you. From that, we developed the BBG Management Accountability Charter as a standard for leaders at all levels to communicate effectively with employees, provide resources and opportunities, and create a safe, fair, and supportive workplace culture.
To accomplish the goals of the Management Accountability Charter, agency leaders at all levels need to continually bolster their own leadership development. In the coming weeks, Workplace Solutions will launch “Leadership 2020,” a comprehensive leadership development program to prepare management teams to improve communication, engagement, and performance management in a changing environment. Leadership 2020 will implement 360 degree feedback tools for managers, set learning requirements, and require development plans that ensure the goals of the Management Accountability Charter are met.
Additionally, in the coming days I will announce our candidates for the Nathanson Public Diplomacy Scholarship. Candidates will participate in the Aspen Institute Socrates Program in Aspen, Colorado from July 7 to July 10. It provides a forum for emerging leaders from various professions to explore contemporary issues through expert-moderated dialogue. It is a great opportunity that I fully support.
Lastly, I encourage you to participate in the FEVS and to engage with leadership in other ways. Let your voice be heard through VOA’s Ask Amanda, WorkPlaceSolutions@bbg.gov, InternalCommunications@bbg.gov, suggestion boxes in the Cohen building and the Talk to John section on the CEO intranet page. I want to hear from you about what we can do together to improve our workplace.
Thank you for all that you do in support of U.S. international media.
John F. Lansing
Chief Executive Officer and Director
Broadcasting Board of Governors
END OF MESSAGE TO EMPLOYEES FROM BBG CEO JOHN LANSING