BBG Watch Commentary


In response to BBG Watch report, Victor Ashe apologized for Columbia Journalism Review for Voice of America management’s refusal to answer journalist’s questions, we received an email from former Voice of America senior correspondent Gary Thomas accused  by VOA management of making “multiple errors” in his article for Columbia Journalism Review.

VOA management called the article “inflammatory and biased.”

When Thomas submitted questions to VOA management prior to publishing his article, top VOA officials refused to answer them.

“Refusing to answer questions because you don’t like them is what politicians do. VOA management should know better,” Thomas wrote.

VOICE OF AMERICA MANAGEMENT’s COMMENT: “I do not know what the Board thinks about Gary Thomas, but VOA management believe he was a valued employee and respected correspondent.”

GARY THOMAS: “Yet VOA, and specifically Kyle King, tried to get Columbia Journalism Review to quash my piece prior to publication by calling the magazine’s editors to trash me. According to one of the CJR editors, King told CJR that I was a ‘problematic employee’. As for the questions that I posed that management describes as ‘inflammatory and biased’, VOA management seems to forget that it is a journalist’s job to ask tough questions. That’s in a journalist’s DNA. Refusing to answer questions because you don’t like them is what politicians do. VOA management should know better.”

Kyle King, Director of the VOA Public Relations Office had posted a comment under Thomas’s CJR article. VOA spokesman wrote in part: “It is disappointing CJR would publish this commentary, which contains multiple errors, and calls for changes that are either unrealistic or have already been proposed by the very organization Mr. Thomas maligns.”
Victor Ashe, a departing Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member, apologized to Columbia Journalism Review and separately to Gary Thomas. Ashe wrote that the VOA decision not to answer questions from a journalist was “unfortunate” and was made “at the direction of David Ensor [VOA Director] and Steve Redisch [VOA Executive Editor].”

BBG Watch confirmed from other sources that top VOA leadership indeed approved the refusal to answer Gary Thomas’s questions. One of our sources forwarded to us the following official response from VOA: “VOA’s management team consulted with each other on Mr. Thomas’ questions and responded in this way because we felt they were inflammatory and biased.”

Victor Ashe pointed out that both David Ensor and Steve Redisch “proclaim loudly that VOA prints both sides of a news story.” Ashe added: “VOA never consulted with the BBG Board at that time when they made the decision to stiff the Columbia Journalism Review which is a respected publication. Now a former Board member, I was embarrassed this happened. It reflects poorly on VOA and not on Gary Thomas.

Voice of America management also engaged in accusations against independent American reporter Matthew Russell Lee who works at the UN and tried to get his UN press accreditation revoked.

INNER CITY PRESS, by Matthew Russell Lee: “But what is BBG’s and VOA’s commitment to freedom of the press? Inner City Press on personal experience can say: there is no real commitment, beyond when it serves BBG’s mission.

  In 2012 Voice of America’s Steve Redisch, who is supervised by David Ensor and Richard Lobo, wrote to the UN and asked that they “review the accreditation” of Inner City Press. Click here for that.