Under the current U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) leadership, the horror of Russia’s war on Ukraine is made trivial in tweets by Voice of America (VOA).


By The Federalist

The Russian government has begun full-scale warfare in Ukraine. Attacks in Russia’s war on Ukraine are coordinated.

In addition, there is a cyberwarfare component, the extent of which is unknown. Ukrainians are being killed.

A VOA reporter tweets about “the morning commute” in Kyiv. A more senior VOA reporter retweets.

Americans may want to know how the leadership of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) in charge of the Voice of America (VOA) and its other government-funded media outlets, and VOA’s own management, editors, and reporters — federal employees and government contractors in the $800-million agency — present the war to the world on social media since the outbreak of hostilities. This also includes VOA’s domestic social media audience in the United States.

A Voice of America correspondent on the ground in Ukraine tweets:

“Surreal thing is that as Russia’s military operations unfold and both of Kyiv’s airport (sic) under attack, the morning commute is starting up and people are going to work.”

In turn, a Voice of America employee and reporter in Washington, DC. retweets:

”From my VOA colleague in Kyiv.”

That’s how the brutal reality of Russia’s war on Ukraine was presented by the Voice of America in these two tweets. They make the war look trivial, but do they accurately reflect the reality of what is happening to the Ukrainians and what they are doing?

Was this really “the morning commute,” in Kyiv, as described by the Voice of America reporter in Ukraine and retweeted by a Washington-based VOA reporter with a senior status?

Could it be that many of these Ukrainians are people who are clogging the streets of Kyiv for other reasons than the morning commute, or in addition to it? Could they be desperately attempting to connect with their family members to protect them from the Russian advance, organize themselves to resist it, or both? Some may be heading west, to western Ukraine and Poland. Furthermore, even in wartime, people have to work.

These tweets by VOA reporters make the brutal war and Russian aggression — the horror of the war — seem trivial.

In Twitter form, the end result may be misleading a lot of people into thinking that life in Ukraine is pretty much normal.

Did these tweets meet the VOA Charter requirements and VOA’s social media protocols? VOA’s senior leadership in the U.S. Agency for Global Media should have experienced and responsible VOA editors carefully check, double-check, and review all reporting and social media content about the war in Ukraine. In a war situation, even a single tweet can have serious consequences.

The USAGM Acting CEO Kelu Chao and the VOA Acting Director Yolanda Lopez are now in charge. They were also key members of the management team under the former Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett. She is not at the agency at the moment, but she may be coming back if the U.S. Senate confirms her nomination to be the next USAGM CEO. There seems to be no hope of any change, considering the incredibly long list of management and programming scandals under these leaders, executives, and managers for at least a decade, if not longer. This agency has a well-established reputation for being dysfunctional, poorly managed, with the lowest employee morale in the Federal Government for many years. Its core team of senior managers has been perpetually entrenched.

Does the USAGM and VOA senior leadership have a conception of war being waged by Russia’s military or propaganda warfare by Russia, China, Iran, and other hostile actors? They appear to be seriously detached from the reality of what is taking place on the ground in Ukraine. Russia’s war on Ukraine has the ominous potential for spilling beyond Ukraine itself. They previously allowed hundreds of USAGM employees and their family members to be stranded in Afghanistan, even though there were plenty of signs that most if not all of these employees, contractors, and their dependents should have been pulled out from Afghanistan a long time ago.

What did USAGM do to keep VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) employees safe from danger in Russia and Ukraine?

Why were both VOA and RFE/RL reporters in the same place in Ukraine when they apparently came under fire? Why is the USAGM and VOA leadership making work assignment plans of a well-known, high-visibility VOA government employee public?

In every way, actions of the agency’s leadership demonstrate the dangers for the safety of U.S. Agency for Global Media employees and contractors and for the well-being of Voice of America audiences.

In a total and brutal war, it is disturbing and frightening in every way.

The Federalist
February 2022

READ ON USAGM Watch: Horror of Russia’s War on Ukraine Made Trivial in VOA Tweets