BBG Watch Commentary
WARNING: This commentary quotes an obscenity.
Using U.S. taxpayers’ money, the Voice of America (VOA), a U.S. international media outlet funded by Congress with a congressionally-approved Charter which requires it to be accurate and balanced in news reporting, is posting retweets from President Putin’s propaganda outlet RT (Russia Today) and by someone who has a Twitter account as “Steiner – @Steiner1776 – A frustrated #german and #socialist. Pro-#Russia,#Assad,#Gaddafi. Fuck the #EU,#US.” The Voice of America appears to be supporting Russia’s propaganda and the Kremlin’s public diplomacy through tweets of Moscow’s fanatical anti-U.S. online supporters.
A VOA English News report today (May 10, 2014), “Eastern Ukraine Separatists Proceed With Vote – VOA News,” included a number of embedded tweets. One of them was a RT (Russia Today) news report retweet by Mark MacKinnon, Senior International Correspondent for The Globe and Mail. The link goes to RT report, “Gunshots, explosions as fighting resumes near Ukraine’s Slavyansk – RT” which includes tweets from PaulaSlier_RT, Paula Slier, Middle East bureau chief for Russia Today.
In an National Geographic article “The Twitter War: Social Media’s Role in Ukraine Unrest Social media networks are powerful propaganda tools in the Ukrainian crisis – National Geographic,” journalist David Stern shows two of Paula Slier tweets from eastern Ukraine with these comments: “An unsubstantiated and incendiary claim of the number of fatalities” and “This is a good example of Russia Today’s coverage: The pro-Ukrainians are ‘radicals’ and the pro-Russians are “activists.” Only one side is throwing stones, though it was clearly mutual.”
No other major Western international broadcaster, including BBC, Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW), or France’s RFI, posts such large numbers of tweets from dubious sources without any editorial screening or disclaimers. The Voice of America does not appear to follow any generally accepted editorial standards in choosing tweets for retweeting other than providing tweets from a wide variety of sources, some of which may be in fact shadowy in origin and definitely repeating the Kremlin’s propaganda as pointed out in the National Geographic article. The VOA report also included tweets from the German Foreign Ministry and from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
Like VOA, RFE/RL is also overseen by the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), but RFE/RL does not repost tweets from RT or shadowy sources repeating the Kremlin’s propaganda. RFE/RL should probably petition the BBG to prevent VOA from placing RFE/RL tweets next to retweets from RT and other propaganda sources on the Voice of America website.
The RT (Russia Today) retweet posted today by U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America, is embedded below. The RT news report to which this tweet on the VOA website links included additional tweets from Paula Slier, RT correspondent who was described in an National Geographic article as making “unsubstantiated and incendiary” claims.
— Mark MacKinnon (@markmackinnon) May 10, 2014
Another tweet re-posted by the Voice of America on the VOA English News website was from the mysterious “Steiner – @Steiner1776” who identifies herself on Twitter as “A frustrated #german and #socialist. Pro-#Russia,#Assad,#Gaddafi. Fuck the #EU,#US.” The tweet below was reposted by the Voice of America.
— Steiner (@Steiner1776) May 9, 2014
In this tweet posted by the Voice of America, Steiner writes “Kiev regime forces attacked civilians.” The U.S. does not consider the authorities in Kyiv as a regime but as a legitimate government of Ukraine.
Steiner’s earlier tweet, which was not retweeted by the Voice of America, but which a VOA editor had to see because it was right below the one used by VOA, had even stronger anti-Ukrainian government language. It called on the population to “rise up against the Kiev regime fascists.”
“People of eastern #Ukraine rise up against the #Kiev regime fascists. #Victory will be yours!”
The tweet below was not reposted by VOA but came from the same source.
— Steiner (@Steiner1776) May 9, 2014
“Even at an ultra-liberal gay loving contest, Russia finished 7th out of 37 nations competing this year. Problem?”
The tweet below was not reposted by the Voice of America, but it appears on the Twitter account from which VOA News used a tweet without any explanations of disclaimers regarding the source.
— Republic of Donetsk (@alexlaserthrow) May 10, 2014
The Voice of America is believed to be in the midst of a major management crisis which its oversight bipartisan body, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), is not able to solve because of institutional and bureaucratic obstacles. A bipartisan bill in the U.S. Congress, which was recently approved unanimously by the House Foreign Affairs Committee for consideration by the full House of Representatives, is designed to reform the BBG.
The Voice of America Storify account “Developments in Ukraine,” where retweets from Russia’s RT and from other pro-Kremlin propaganda sources have been posted, uses as its page image a photo showing pro-Russian separatists and a Russian flag.
According to BBG Watch sources, members of the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors are frustrated by the lack of leadership and good governance at the Voice of America but were unwilling to make drastic changes in the middle of the Ukraine crisis. It looks like they should have acted earlier to address management problems at VOA.
Voice of America Director David Ensor said that VOA should not be a mouthpiece of the White House or anybody else.
“Voice of America is not a propaganda organization and it is not a mouthpiece of the White House or of anybody else. It is a proud journalistic organization more than seventy years old.” — VOA Director David Ensor
Earlier, the Voice of America had posted a map showing Crimea to be part of Russia, even though the United States government has not recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The map stayed on the VOA website uncorrected for many hours.