In a post on the Heritage Foundation blog The Foundry, the foundation’s senior public diplomacy analyst Helle Dale reported that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) “has started to exhibit a level of secrecy worthy of the CIA, clamping down heavy-handedly on internal communications. She also reported that the Voice of America (VOA) has joined other news organizations at the United Nations in endorsing the expulsion of an American investigative journalist.
Dale’s post focuses on the BBG’s recently-passed resolution to clamp down on disclosure of “deliberative information” between two or more BBG members or between agency staff and board members.
The Heritage Foundation scholar was referring to the “Protocol to Prevent Unauthorized Disclosure of Confidential and Pre-Decisional Information” which was put on the agenda of the BBG meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, in violation of the BBG’s own by-laws.
“‘Pre-decisional’ is the kind of word the KGB would have loved, potentially meaning just about anything the BBG leadership deems inconvenient for the public to know,” wrote Dale.
In her post, Dale is also commenting on an attempt by a Voice of America senior manager to deny press credentials to Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press, an American journalist who covers the United Nations.
“By all accounts, Lee is an eccentric and difficult individual who nevertheless has a knack for covering the inner workings of the U.N. like no one else. Lee was recently expelled by the U.N. Correspondents Association due to a complaint against him by other reporters, including one from the VOA.
On June 29, VOA management upped the stakes by sending a letter to the U.N. urging the organization to deny Lee press credentials altogether. The letter, signed by VOA executive director Steve Redisch, boils down to this: We don’t like him; his work is not up to our standards; and he keeps sending us annoying e-mails.”
“As an experienced journalist and leader of an organization dedicated to freedom of the press, it is difficult for me to make this request of you. But I would urge you to review Mr. Lee’s status as an accredited U.N. correspondent. I believe his behavior is impeding the freedom VOA’s correspondent and others need in order to report what they see and know from the United Nations.”
“Lee has not actually been accused by his colleagues anything illegal or unethical or anything else that could justify denying him his credentials,” wrote Helle Dale.
She quoted Heritage Foundation U.N. expert Brett Schaefer, who said that the U.S. government “absolutely should stand firm in protecting the principle of freedom of the press.”
“But as the BBG defends press freedom abroad, it seems to be doing the opposite at home, a deeply concerning trend antithetical to its core mission,” Dale concluded her post for the Heritage Foundation blog The Foundry.