BBG Watch Commentary
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. Well-known Nigerian 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. He is, of course, entitled to his opinions and to giving up his U.S. green card. VOA should have reported on what he said and what he did, and VOA did that. But the Voice of America should not have tried to pretend and mislead audiences that his is the only view in Africa, because it is not.
“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 high-level presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed 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.
ALSO SEE: Voice of America whips up anti-Trump hysteria with one-sided reporting, BBG Watch, December 5, 2016.
VOICE OF AMERICA
(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