BBG Watch Commentary
A map posted on U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) news website no longer shows Crimea as part of Ukraine.
UPDATE: After the publication of the BBG Watch article, the map was removed from the Voice of America website. It stayed on the VOA site all day Monday, April 7 and most of the night of April 8, 2014.
LATEST UPDATE: After protests were sent to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) that the map contradicted U.S. policy, VOA removed the map after about 24 hours and later inserted a corrected map.
SEE: “Voice of America removes and later corrects controversial map recognizing annexation of Crimea by Russia“
Voice of America Map, Posted April 7, 2014
In a move that could provoke a diplomatic incident between Kyiv and Washington, poorly-led, poorly-managed and mistake-prone Voice of America, which is funded by American taxpayers and functions as a news organization within the U.S. Government with its own journalistic Charter, posted on its English news website a map that shows Crimea as no longer being part of Ukraine. The VOA Charter requires VOA to “serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news.” “VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive,” is another requirement of the VOA Charter, which is public law in the U.S. The VOA Charter also says that “VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively.” The United States has not recognized the annexation of Crimea by Russia. To their credit, VOA Ukrainian and Russian services did not use this map.
The Voice of America map shows Ukraine in yellow and Crimea in grey. Russia and Moldova are also shown in gray. The map was included in a VOA News report “Ukraine PM Blames Russia for Unrest in East,” posted on April 7, 2014. Signed “VOA” and produced with U.S. taxpayer funds, this Voice of America map appears to be in the public domain and conceivably could be used by anyone in the United States and abroad.
The United States Government not only has not recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but it also does not consider Crimea as a separate territory. The U.S. continues to regard Crimea as part of Ukraine, as shown in maps on other U.S. Government websites, including the website of the U.S. State Department.
Voice of America posted the map showing Crimea as being no longer in Ukraine on the same day the United States has warned Russia against stirring separatist sentiment in eastern Ukraine. U.S. State Department and White House spokespersons said Monday there are clear signs that pro-Russian demonstrations were orchestrated from outside.
When the Soviet Union annexed the Baltic states during World War II, the U.S. Government also regarded the annexation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as illegal. U.S. Government maps of that era did not show the Baltic states as being part of the Soviet Union, noting instead their occupation by Moscow.
Inside sources told BBG Watch that serious and numerous mistakes of this kind are a result of poor leadership, lack of editorial guidance, and general disarray within the organization blamed on ineffective Voice of America executives.
Many experienced VOA journalists have left unwilling to tolerate poor management and hostile work environment. Those who have left and some of those veteran reporters who still remain criticize top managers, VOA Director David Ensor and VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch, for allowing VOA news reporting to deteriorate to the point of causing harm to U.S. interests and U.S. public diplomacy abroad, sources told BBG Watch.
One recently produced VOA video showed a blood-thirty zombie dressed as an Uncle Sam character attacking a Pakistani. Another VOA video featured heavy North Korean propaganda with hardly any challenge from VOA.
VOA correspondents complain that their reports are often posted late or changed by new and inexperienced newsroom and web desk staff to include information that sometimes may be wrong or misleading. VOA executives allowed VOA newsroom to lose a large number of experienced news writers while pushing for production of feature reports on the British royal family, Justin Bieber, and similar non-news content, critics told BBG Watch.
Sources also told BBG Watch that members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), who have oversight responsibilities and are apparently already very unhappy with the lack of leadership and editorial guidance at the Voice of America, are likely to be even more upset with VOA executives if the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, members of Congress or American Ukrainian organizations file protests against the VOA map showing Crimea as being no longer part of Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry is an ex officio member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. He is usually represented at BBG meetings by Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel. It is likely that Stengel may have something to say to VOA Director Ensor about this VOA map.
Maps on the Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) website do not show Crimea as a separate territory or as part of Russia. RFE/RL is also funded by U.S. taxpayers and overseen by the BBG.
A map on the BBC website shows Crimea in a slightly different shade of yellow used for Ukraine, while Russian Federation territory is shown in gray.
It appears that in removing Crimea from the map of Ukraine, Voice of America took the lead from the Voice of Russia website which now refers to Yalta in Crimea on its homepage as one of Russia’s cities.
Map of Ukraine on the State Department Website, April 7, 2014
Screenshots of VOA Report with Map
(A check of the VOA English Facebook page at 2:30 AM EDT on April 8, 2014 showed that it had not been updated for 11 hours — yet another sign of the failure of VOA’s top management.)