BBG Watch Media Commentary
Veteran Washington journalist and political author Bill Gertz reports in the Washington Free Beacon that an exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui with former close ties to the Chinese communist government has begun revealing secrets about Beijing’s intelligence operations and influence buying in the United States, including media, after China pressured the official Voice of America (VOA) radio to curtail a lengthy interview with him. The interview was curtailed on orders of VOA director Amanda Bennett, an Obama administration holdover, which caused an unprecedented damage to VOA’s reputation among Chinese web users who have accused the VOA management of kowtowing to the Chinese communists and of engaging in censorship. Chinese Americans have organized protest demonstrations in front of the VOA building in Washington, DC. The VOA director and her senior management who had made the decision to shorten the interview and caused the damage to VOA’s credibility in China have put five VOA Mandarin Service journalists on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. Some of these journalists strongly opposed the shortening of the interview fearing that it would damage their program’s reputation. They were overruled by the VOA director.
Several members of Congress are making inquiries about the decision to shorten the interview. Amanda Bennett made the decision before the interview went live on the air. She insists that it had nothing to do with pressure from the Chinese government which made vague threats with regard to treatment of VOA visitors and reporters in China. Bennett reports to Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John F. Lansing, who is also an Obama administration holdover.
Bennett also reportedly instructed VOA Mandarin Service journalists not to allow Mr. Guo to make allegations against Chinese Communist Party officials. She insisted that they must be given an opportunity to respond in advance to accusations before the interview is aired. They did respond by accusing Mr. Guo of various crimes and issuing a warrant for his arrest, but the live VOA interview with him was still cut short despite earlier VOA Mandarin Service announcements that it would last three hours during which he would reveal explosive secrets on corruption within the Chinese ruling elite.
Bill Gertz reported that a VOA spokesman said decisions on handling the Guo interview were based on journalistic guidelines requiring verification, balance, and fairness that apply to all VOA’s various language services.
“There was no input whatsoever from the U.S. government, nor would the firewall permit any such input,” MacKenzie said, referring to limits of official U.S. government controls.
READ MORE: China Intervenes to Block Businessman From Revealing Spying Secrets on VOA, Bill Gertz, The Washington Free Beacon, May 23, 2017
Bill Gertz is senior editor of the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Beacon he was a national security reporter, editor, and columnist for 27 years at the Washington Times. He is the author of six books, four of which were national bestsellers.