BBG Watch Commentary
U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) has failed to report for its worldwide English audiences on a statement by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the 70th anniversary of Crimean Tatar deportation on orders of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The vast majority of more than 40 VOA language services also ignored the 70th anniversary of one of the major genocides of the 20th century.
Secretary Kerry said that “the suffering caused by this mass expulsion is almost inexpressible” and that “nearly half of those deported, mostly women and children, perished between 1944 and 1947.
Many Crimean Tatars and their descendants remain in exile today. Some live in English-speaking countries. Nearly all are Muslims.
More than 14 hours after the State Department issued Secretary Kerry’s statement, VOA English News has not mentioned it online.
— Department of State (@StateDept) May 16, 2014
Secretary Kerry issued his written statement on Friday, May 16. John Kerry’s tweet about his Crimean Tatars statement was posted at 3:20 PM EDT, Friday, May 16. As of 4:30 AM EDT, Saturday, May 17, the main Voice of America (VOA) English news website has not reported on it even though VOA English has a worldwide audience which includes many who like the Tatars are Muslims and deeply sympathize with their current plight under renewed Russian rule in Crimea.
It appears that among more than 40 VOA language services only VOA Ukrainian and Russian services have reported on Secretary Kerry’s statement. Other VOA language services, including many directing their programs to Muslim countries, most likely will not report on Secretary Kerry’s statement if VOA English news does not provide a special report. If it does provide it in response to criticism from BBG Watch, which sometimes happens, it will be a day late.
VOA Albanian and VOA Bosnian services, both directing their programs to largely Muslim countries, did not have any reports online about Secretary Kerry’s powerful statement as of 2:00 AM EDT Saturday. VOA Iranian service also did not have a report. VOA Turkish service also did not have a report online on Kerry’s statement. Turkey traditionally considers itself a protector of Crimean Tatars and their interests.
Ironically, VOA English News did note briefly the 70th anniversary of Crimean Tatar deportation, but it was in remarks by a UN human rights official in Europe, and not any U.S. official.
The Voice of America Charter says that “VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.” The Voice of America did not produce any special anniversary program in any media on the 70th anniversary of Crimean Tatar deportation and did not report on many U.S. articles and comments about the anniversary.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), another media entity overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), issued an excellent report in English on how Moscow deals with the Tatars and reacts to the anniversary of Tatar deportation, “Moscow Uses Divide-And-Conquer Strategy With Crimean Tatars, RFE/RL,” but the job of reporting on U.S. reactions, both official and unofficial, was given by Congress to the Voice of America, not RFE/RL, which specializes in surrogate journalism. Critics say that the Voice of America lacks leadership, planning and coordination, and good management at the most senior level, which leads to numerous failures in news reporting.
These news reporting failures and delays in updating news occur at the Voice of America especially frequently after business hours and on weekends. Earlier, VOA English News had posted a map showing Crimea to be part of Russia even though the United States government has not recognized the annexation of Crimea by Moscow. The map was not corrected for many hours.
Secretary of State
May 16, 2014
The 70th anniversary of Joseph Stalin’s forcible deportation of more than 230,000 Crimean Tatars from their homeland in Crimea weighs especially on our minds today.
The suffering caused by this mass expulsion is almost inexpressible. Those who survived the horrific transit to Central Asia, the Urals and Siberia faced hunger, disease, and repression on arrival. Nearly half of those deported, mostly women and children, perished between 1944 and 1947. Many Crimean Tatars and their descendants remain in exile today.
For many Crimean Tatars, these abuses are still fresh in their minds and Russia’s occupation and illegal attempt to annex Crimea has reopened old wounds.
The list of human rights abuses committed today in Crimea is long and grows longer with each passing week. Murder, beatings, and the kidnapping of Crimean Tatars and others have become standard fare. Local “authorities” announced that Crimean Tatars will have to vacate their property and give up their land. Crimean Tatars have been assaulted for speaking their language, and Tatar community leader Mustafa Dzhemilev has been banned from returning to his home in Crimea for five years. Thousands of Tatars and others have fled their homes in Crimea, fearful for their safety. Those who remain face a future of repression, discrimination, censorship, limits on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the criminalization of dissent.
We commemorate the tragedy of 1944 with heavy hearts, even as we stand in solidarity with Crimean Tatars today against a new threat to their community. We reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and our deep commitment to the human rights of all citizens of Ukraine, including those in Crimea.
RFE/RL posted this video online.
1944 Deportation Victim: ‘We Said Goodbye To Our Home’
Published 16 May 2014
Ridvan Bekirov was 10 years old when his family was thrown out of its Crimean home and shipped thousands of kilometers away from their native land. Seventy years later, Bekirov shares his memories of the May 1944 deportation, which affected more then 200,000 Crimean Tatars. (RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service)
RFE/RL also posted another video.
Crimean Tatars Pray For 1944 Deportation Victims
Published 16 May 2014
Mosques across Crimea dedicated Friday Prayers to the victims of the 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatars. May 18 marks of the 70th anniversary of the forcible removal of more than 200,000 Crimean Tatars from the peninsula, ordered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin as a form of collective punishment for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. (RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service)
Voice of America has not produced anything similar about the Crimean Tatar community in the United States. VOA English News did not even report Secretary Kerry’s statement. Earlier, VOA English News had failed to report on President Obama’s statement on the Armenian Remembrance Day observed to mark the anniversary of the mass killing of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915. The Voice of America also had failed to report recently on President Obama’s statement on the Holocaust Memorial Day.
In response to a multitude of news omissions, violations of the VOA Charter, and news reporting mistakes in recent years and months, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has announced his intention to introduce a bill that would eliminate federal funding for the Voice of America, which was established by the U.S. government in 1942.
Rep. Salmon described his initiative to defund VOA as the fifth “Shrink Our Spending” (SOS) bill in a series of bills to be introduced over the next few months to cut wasteful and duplicative spending.
Another bill dealing with the Voice of America, the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490), has already been unanimously approved in a fully bipartisan action by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, of which Rep. Salmon is a member, and sent to the whole House for consideration.
H.R. 4490 introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward Royce, with Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel and seven other co-sponsors, would not abolish the Voice of America but would subject it to much stricter management controls. Some fear that some of these controls may also limit VOA’s journalistic independence, although elements of the VOA Charter, which calls for accurate and objective news, have been incorporated into H.R. 4490.
Voice of America Director Director David Ensor said in a recent interview 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
It remains to be seen what will happen in Congress to Rep. Salmon’s proposed bill and to H.R. 4490. Any bill would have to be passed by both the House and the Senate and signed by the President to become law. Further changes to the bills can be proposed both in the House and in the Senate.
This information about Crimean Tatar deportation was provided by the Library of Congress:
Joseph Stalin’s forcible resettlement of over 1.5 million people, mostly Muslims, during and after World War II is now viewed by many human rights experts in Russia as one of his most drastic genocidal acts. Volga Germans and seven nationalities of Crimea and the northern Caucasus were deported: the Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Karachai, and Meskhetians. Other minorities evicted from the Black Sea coastal region included Bulgarians, Greeks, and Armenians.
Resistance to Soviet rule, separatism, and widespread collaboration with the German occupation forces were among the official reasons for the deportation of these non-Russian peoples. The possibility of a German attack was used to justify the resettlement of the ethnically mixed population of Mtskheta, in southwestern Georgia. The Balkars were punished for allegedly having sent a white horse as a gift to Adolf Hitler.
The deportees were rounded up and transported, usually in railroad cattle cars, to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, and Siberia — areas called “human dumping grounds” by historian Robert Conquest. Most estimates indicate that close to two-fifths of the affected populations perished. The plight of the Crimean Tatars was exceptionally harsh; nearly half died of hunger in the first eighteen months after being banished from their homeland.
In February 1956, Nikita Khrushchev condemned the deportations as a violation of Leninist principles. In his “secret speech” to the Twentieth Party Congress, he stated that the Ukrainians avoided such a fate “only because there were too many of them and there was no place to which to deport them.” That year, the Soviet government issued decrees on the restoration of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic and the Kabardino-Balkar Autonomous Republic, the formation of the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast’, and the reorganization of the Cherkess Autonomous Oblast’ into the Karachai-Cherkess Autonomous Oblast’. The Crimean Tatars, Meskhetians, and Volga Germans, however, were only partially rehabilitated and were not, for the most part, permitted to return to their homelands until after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.