BBG Watch Commentary

Angelina JolieIn yet another example of mismanagement and violation of its congressional Charter obligation to report world and U.S. news, U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) ignored the opening in London of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict at which American Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke about rape in war zones. Angelina Jolie is also Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Voice of America has a bureau and a staff correspondent in London. It is not clear why the VOA correspondent in London could not file a story on the opening of this global summit, which was covered by BBC, Deutsche Welle and many other international and U.S. media.

With plenty of multimedia material on the anti-rape summit available online, VOA could have also covered the story from Washington. Voice of America has broadcasts to many countries where rape, especially in times of conflict, is a major problem.

UPDATE: At 8:37 AM EDT, Wednesday, June 11, 2014, more than 24 hours after the conference opened in London on Tuesday with speeches from Angelina Jolie and William Hague, the Voice of America finally posted a report — not its own, but from Reuters. In a further display of journalistic incompetence and poor judgement, Voice of America put the Reuters report on its homepage under the “ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT” section.

The Reuters report on the Voice of America website was not only posted about 24 hours late, it does not mention that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will address the conference on Friday. By not doing its own reporting according to the VOA Charter, VOA is in violation of its Charter when it does not report on U.S. policies, such as U.S. government’s strong support for this conference and for ending rape in war zones. The United States is not mentioned in the Reuters report as a supporter of the London summit.

The global summit in Lodon is strongly supported by the United Nations and the United States Government. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who will attend the conference’s last day on Friday, said delegates wanted “to relegate sexual violence to the annals of history,” Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) reported, “Angelina Jolie spearheads London summit against rape in war zones,” DW, June 11, 2014.

Deutsche Welle also reported that “even Pope Francis chimed in via the Twitter website, using the hashtag #TimeToAct in a message suggesting prayer for both victims of sexual abuse and those working to prevent it.

BBC quoted Angelina Jolie as saying “There is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence” and posted video and photos in its report, “Sexual violence in war: Jolie opens summit in London,” BBC, 10 June 2014 Last updated at 11:20 ET.

The Voice of America did not even notice this news story, which had a famous American actress speaking out against rape. There were also tweets from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressing his support for the conference and announcing his participation on Friday and a statement from the State Department two days ago.

In recent years, Voice of America has often missed significant U.S. foreign policy news stories and has been often late and superficial in its news reporting, particularly in English, but these problems also affect many VOA language services, the vast majority of which, possibly all, also did not report on the opening of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. Critics blame these failures on mismanagement at the senior level.

VOA Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 6.25PM EDTSenior managers assign VOA reporters instead to cover feature stories, such as a long multimedia report on wigs: “Elaborate Wigs Top Off Broadway’s Winning Looks – VOA, June 9, 2014, reporting that wigs play a central role in a play based on a real American resort that “in the 1960s catered to heterosexual men who enjoyed dressing as women.”

VOA English News not only did not produce a report on the opening of the London summit against rape, it also failed to mention in its video report from Kyiv on Saturday’s inauguration of Ukraine’s President Poroshenko that Vice President Joe Biden and a U.S. congressional delegation attended the ceremony. VOA did not send a correspondent with the Vice President to Kyiv.

At least one member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee wants to defund the Voice of America because of mismanagement and refusal to follow the VOA Charter. All members of the House committee have proposed bipartisan legislation designed to reform the Voice of America and the rest of U.S. international broadcasting under the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

U.S. State Department, Secretary Kerry, and Pope Francis consider the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict as important news, but not the Voice of America’s chief executives. Voice of America Director Director David Ensor, who has been traveling in Europe for the last few days, said in a recent interview  that VOA is a proud journalistic organization of more than 70 years and ; will not be a mouthpiece of the White House or anybody else.

Secretary of State John Kerry Travel to London

Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
June 8, 2014

On June 13, Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to London, United Kingdom to participate in the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict chaired by U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague and Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie.

The Global Summit aims to raise global awareness of the scale of sexual violence in conflict, including the use of rape as a tactic of war, and mobilize commitments and action to end the culture of impunity that surrounds it.

Participants at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict will include government officials, international organization representatives, and a broad range of domestic and international experts from the legal, military, humanitarian, judicial, and civil society sectors.

Follow Secretary Kerry’s travel via @JohnKerry, @StateDept, and @StateDeptSpox on Twitter and go to the Department’s Flickr account for the latest trip photos. Stay connected: http://blogs.state.gov/social-feeds and keep track of all of the Secretary’s travels at: http://www.state.gov/secretary/travel/index.htm.

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