Voice of America whips up anti-Trump hysteria with one-sided reporting

BBG Watch Commentary

“The lawyer representing the family of Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the man who wounded 11 people at Ohio State University last week, has said U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter response to the attack shocked the family and kept them silent and mystified,” U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) reported.

VOA report also included these assertions from the lawyer of the terrorism suspect: “They [the family] are very afraid, and they expected to be attacked when they go to school or in the community. There is a great fear up there. With the statement of the President-elect Trump, to some extent I am not sure they want their faces on camera,” he said. “[The] family told me he was a good man with a brighter future and they want to know to a large extent to see some kind of proof,” Fitrakis said. “What they want to see is the video types.”

The Voice of America report does not explain to foreign audiences the role of a defense attorney in the United States. The VOA report also does not include comments from persons other than the lawyer or family members of the attacker who may have known him and could offer a more objective opinion. The VOA report does not include comments from Columbus, Ohio residents who were accused of possibly contemplating retaliatory attacks on the terrorist’s family members, nor does VOA offer any proof that  such attacks are likely or that similar attacks have occurred in the United States in the past against family members of other accused terrorists. The VOA reporter does not quote any victims of the terrorist attack, their friends or members of their families.

What the Voice of America report does is to presents a picture of America where Muslims are allegedly routinely hunted down by angry mobs after Donald Trump’s election victory. The Voice of America report could be a perfect recruiting material for ISIS if the information and assertions, as presented by VOA without any balance or challenge, were in fact all true. On top of everything else, the VOA report is full of grammatical and English usage errors that have have not be corrected by VOA editors.

The Voice of America is overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) which is headed by CEO and director John F. Lansing, a former U.S. private entertainment TV manager who lacks prior experience in U.S. government operations, international news reporting for foreign audiences, intercultural communications, U.S. foreign policy or U.S. public diplomacy. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives in a bipartisan action voted to abolish the BBG’s ineffective governing board which had selected John Lansing for his current U.S. government job. If the law containing the bipartisan BBG reform amendment is passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama, John Lansing may be replaced by a Senate-confirmed CEO who would be chosen by Donald Trump after he becomes President. The BBG has been so badly managed that a recent BBG press release, prepared by the executive staff still highly praised by Mr. Lansing and BBG’s outgoing chairman Jeff Shell and other BBG board members, misspelled John Lansing’s name and got his title wrong. This is not as bad as it gets at the BBG, but it shows a federal agency in a complete disarray, “a regular bottom feeder…going backward” on employee engagement and employee assessment of senior leaders, as Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson observed recently. In 2013, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the agency as “practically defunct.”

Sloppy reporting is even more common and more dangerous at the BBG’s largest media entity, the Voice of America. Ever since VOA director Amanda Bennett, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter whose most recent commentaries prior to joining VOA appeared in The Washington Post, praised a one-sided Voice of America Spanish Service report in which an illegal immigrant referred to Donald Trump immigration plan as an embodiment of “hate and prejudice” without VOA editors giving him or his supporters a chance to respond or explain his position on immigration in the same video, other one-sided VOA reports continue to whip up anti-Trump hysteria abroad and in the United States. Some VOA reporters have posted anti-Trump memes and statements on their personal Facebook pages which are open to the public and where they identify themselves as Voice of America employees. (The image above showing Donald Trump with Nazi swastika GIF – is a screenshot from a Voice of America reporter’s personal but publicly accessible Facebook page.)

Ms. Bennett is very proud of and often praises “investigative” reporting, even though some of these VOA reports include false information and unproven allegations, to which VOA fails to add challenges, responses and countervailing viewpoints, as its Charter requires it to do. Bernie Sanders was a target of such one-sided attacks in some of VOA programs during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Even Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was smeared in a VOA video without his side of the story being presented.

Not all VOA news reports lack balance. But sometimes when there is information undermining or weakening a particular attack on President-elect Donald Trump, some VOA reporters and editors do not try to look for it. Whether purposely or not, they do not include balancing information or statements in some of VOA reports. In other instances, VOA editors chose misleading headlines to make Donald Trump’s statements look more provocative to foreign audiences. We are not saying at all that VOA should avoid reporting on criticism of Donald Trump. What VOA should avoid is appearing partisan, biased and unprofessional to foreign audiences and should strive for maximum objectivity. VOA should not be in the business of whipping up anti-Trump hysteria abroad and in the United States.

On December 1, 2016, VOA editors decided to post on the main VOA news website a Reuters report titled Nobel Prize-winning Soyinka Shreds US Greencard in Anger Over Trump Victory.”

The Reuters report was particularly one-sided as it presented only Wole Soyinka’s side of the story, without mentioning that the the Nigerian born author was a target of widespread criticism and ridicule in Africa over his threat to leave the United States if Donald Trump would win the U.S. presidential race. Many social media users in Africa mocked Soyinka over his statement and taunted him to carry out his threat to tear up his U.S. permanent resident green card. Serious commentators published op-eds criticizing Soyinka The criticism of his act has ben so intense among some Nigerians that Soyinka lashed back at his critics calling them, as reported, slugs, barbarians and imbeciles,” Nigeria’s independent newspaper The Guardian reported. His reported response to critical comments such as the one calling on him “to stop disgracing himself” was “I don’t want people we fought for to have the freedom of expression to use it for stupid comments.” None of this controversy was reported by VOA News in English for VOA’s worldwide audience and for Americans who might see VOA news in English on the internet. It’s bad enough that U.S. taxpayer-funded VOA is misleading foreign audiences with incomplete and one-sided news reports whipping up the anti-Trump hysteria. VOA is also misleading Americans who pay for these reports.

As if a one-sided Reuters report posted on the Voice of America website were not enough, VOA also had posted its own, equally one-sided and one-dimensional report on Wole Soyinka, Nigerian Nobel Prize Winner Upholds Promise to Leave US After Trump’s Win” | VOA News. VOA’s own report also failed to mention any criticism in Nigeria of Wole Soyinka’s decision to tear up his U.S. residency card.

We are not saying that the Voice of America should cover up news for Donald Trump or for the United States, but there is no reason why VOA should cover up news for Wole Soyinka and other critics of Donald Trump and millions of Americans who had voted for him. There is no reason for VOA to contribute to anti-U.S. hysteria abroad with one-sided and incomplete news reports that are clearly biased.

Reuters does not have to follow the VOA Charter (U.S. Public Law 94-350), but the Voice of America does because it is U.S. law. VOA clearly had an obligation to report on the other side of the Wole Soyinka story. VOA should have mentioned that after Trump’s victory, a U.S. green card is still regarded as a prized possession by millions of Africans and other foreigners wanting to come to the United States, as many of the Tweets from Africa in response to Mr. Soyinka’s threat have shown. VOA should have reported that many Africans regarded Wole Soyinka’s threat as uncalled for if not outright silly.

“Why would the Voice of America editors choose this clearly anti-American story from Reuters?,” one former Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) board member asked. The former official did not want to be identified by name because of current employment in Washington.

Since the Reuters story lacked both background and balance, a former BBG board member described it as “another Trump hit piece,” that is similar to, although not as offensive, as a one-sided attack on Donald Trump posted in a video by one VOA’s foreign language services during the 2016 presidential campaign. The video was subsequently removed, but it stayed online for several days even after the VOA and BBG management had been alerted to its existence.

“It just gets worst and worst,” a former BBG member commented today on another spectacularly one-sided Voice of America report, which we repost below.

VOICE OF AMERICA

Lawyer: Trump Tweet Shocked, Silenced Ohio State Attacker’s Family

(VOA report copied and reposted by BBG Watch as it appeared on the VOA News website at 11 PM ET, December 5, 2016.)

December 05, 2016 7:40 AM

robert-fitrakis-photo-a-arabasadi-voa

Robert Fitrakis, the lawyer for the family of Ohio State University attacker Abdul Razak Ali Artan at his home in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo: A. Arabasadi / VOA)

COLUMBUS, OHIO — The lawyer representing the family of Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the man who wounded 11 people at Ohio State University last week, has said U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter response to the attack shocked the family and kept them silent and mystified.

In the tweet early Wednesday morning, Trump said, “ISIS is taking credit for the terrible stabbing attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who should not have been in our country.”

donald-trump-tweet-in-voa-dec-5-2016-report

In an exclusive interview with VOA, the family attorney, Robert Fitrakis, said the family is still in a “tremendous shock.”

“They [the family] are very afraid, and they expected to be attacked when they go to school or in the community. There is a great fear up there. With the statement of the President-elect Trump, to some extent I am not sure they want their faces on camera,” he said.

“Me I do not care, I believe in the American values. I don’t believe in corruption of the blood and guilty by association,” he added. “This family is innocent, shocked and traumatized. They really want an answer.”

Artan’s family, who fled from Somalia’s chronic violence and poverty, lived in Pakistan for two years and came to the United States in 2014 through a refugee program.

Many Muslims have expressed fear and uncertainty following Trump’s election campaign statement promising a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

[NOT REPOSTED HERE – Reuters Photo posted in VOA Report]

Abdul Razak Artan, a third-year student in logistics management, sits on the Oval in an August 2016 photo provided by The Lantern, student newspaper of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 28, 2016.

Family wants proof

Abdul Razak Ali Artan rammed his car into a group of students on the Ohio State campus, then got out of the car and began stabbing people before he was shot dead by a police officer.

Minutes before the attack, Artan published a post on Facebook in which he blamed America for killing Muslims abroad and praised al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as a hero.

But attorney Fitrakis said the family could not believe their son had committed such a crime and wanted law enforcement agencies investigating the case to present proof.

“They believed something influenced their son or their brother and they want to get to the bottom of it. They want to make sure that nobody else has to go through the pain, the suffering and the trauma they are going through,” said Fitrakis.

“The mother, Faduma Saeed Abdullahi, is a single mother who was raising seven children including Artan. She was really very obsessed with education and the father of the family is still in Somalia to my understanding,” Fitrakis said.

Federal and state investigators have found no strong evidence to link his attack to any terrorist group, and Fitrakis said the nature of the attack did not represent the son and the brother this family knew.

“Abdul graduated from the Ohio community college last summer with cum laude. He was a polite and hard working person who was spending most of the time either working at Home Depot or studying,” Fitrakis said.

“[The] family told me he was a good man with a brighter future and they want to know to a large extent to see some kind of proof,” Fitrakis said. “What they want to see is the video types.”

Somali community leaders and law enforcement sources say the last terrorism case tied to Columbus was that of Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, who was arrested in 2015 after returning from Syria. Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Somalia, was charged with providing material support to terrorists.

But Artan’s recent attack at Ohio State University is the first violent such attack.

[NOT REPOSTED HERE – AP Photo posted in VOA Report]

FILE – In this Nov. 28, 2016 file photo, crime scene investigators collect evidence from the pavement as police respond to an attack on campus at Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio.

Artan visited Washington

Artan’s family told their lawyer that when they were in Pakistan, Artan had few friends and they were isolated since there were not many Somalis.

The only time Artan’s family suspected him of possible violence was when he posted messages on Facebook minutes before the attack in Ohio.

“One of the family members saw his original post and responded him. In 45 minutes law enforcement agencies and police raided their house, telling them that their bother did an attack,” Fitrakis said.

According to sources close to the family, Abdul Razak Ali Artan went to Washington late on November 24 and came back to Ohio the following day.

Fitrakis said this short trip that occurred without the knowledge of the family surprised and shocked them.

“The fact [was] that he never went out of central Ohio or Columbus area since the family came here, and his trip to Washington DC left the family very suspicious,” Fitrakis said. “He used an old car that had 200,000 miles on it to drive to D.C.”

END OF VOA REPORT

###

VOICE OF AMERICA

Nigerian Nobel Prize Winner Upholds Promise to Leave US After Trump’s Win

(VOA report copied and reposted by BBG Watch as it appeared on the VOA News website at 11 PM ET, December 5, 2016.)

December 01, 2016 3:24 PM

[NOT REPOSTED HERE – Reuters Photo posted in VOA Report]

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka speaks to pupils during a mentoring session at the Lagos Book and Art Festival, Nov. 15, 2014. Soyinka was the first African writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature.

WASHINGTON — Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka has held true to his promise to leave the United States if Donald Trump won the presidency, announcing Thursday that he has “disengaged” from the U.S. and thrown away his green card.

Soyinka, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for literature, was born in Nigeria but has resided in the U.S. for more than 20 years. He’s held teaching jobs at Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Cornell and Yale, but most recently worked as a scholar in residence at New York University.

Returns to Nigeria

Before the U.S. election took place November 8, Soyinka vowed to start cutting up his green card “the moment they announce [Trump’s] victory.” Now that Trump has been declared the victor, Soyinka says he is upholding that promise.

“I have already done it. I have disengaged [from the United States]. I have done what I said I would do,” Soyinka told the French news agency AFP during an education conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“I had a horror of what is to come with Trump. … I threw away the [green] card, and I have relocated, and I’m back to where I have always been,” he said, referring to his native Nigeria.

Time in U.S. called ‘useful’

While Soyinka made the commitment to vacate the U.S. due to political differences with the now president-elect, he said he wouldn’t discourage others from seeking residence in the country.

“It’s useful in many ways. I wouldn’t for one single moment discourage any Nigerians or anybody from acquiring a green card … but I have had enough of it,” he said.

Soyinka was the first African writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature.

END OF VOA REPORT

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