BBG Watch Commentary

Referring to The New York Times report on the announcement of Voice of America (VOA) director David Ensor’s forthcoming resignation, independent U.S. journalist Matthew Russell Lee  has  renewed his previous accusations against executives in charge of U.S. taxpayer-funded VOA. He is accusing them of trying to ban him from covering the United Nations over what was reported to be a private dispute between him and a VOA correspondent.

In a new post, written in his characteristic style,  Mr. Lee has repeated also his previous charges against the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. federal agency overseeing VOA. He is accusing the BBG of ignoring some of his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for VOA and BBG government documents. He had received and made public some of VOA and BBG emails obtained under FOIA.

Mr. Lee made these renewed accusations Wednesday in a new post on his independent blog, Inner City Press, which has 11,300 Twitter followers, more than many of VOA’s smaller foreign language services. His blog consists largely of news reports and commentaries related to the United Nations.

Despite being viewed by some of his colleagues as an unconventional reporter, Matthew Russell Lee has been credited with exposing numerous cases of corruption and abuse of power by U.N. officials and personnel, as well as private U.S. banks. He has been praised by some media freedom advocates for his investigative reporting and daring to expose corruption at the U.N. that other reporters failed to report on.

A 2006 Washington Post article said that Lee’s “challenge persuaded Citigroup’s CitiFinancial Credit Co. to pay a $70 million fine to settle Federal Reserve charges of impropriety in ladling out high-interest loans to the poor.”

A Wikipedia entry for Matthew Russell Lee describes him as “a public interest lawyer, author, and founder of two non-profit organizations, Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch.”

Inner City Press at the U.N. and Matthew Russell Lee were profiled in a 2011 article in The New Yorker.

A reported attempt by a VOA executive in June 2012 to get the U.N. to lift Mr. Lee’s press accreditation failed when a number of civil rights and media freedom organizations came to Mr. Lee’s defense.

Mr. Lee identified the VOA official who had written an email to a U.N. official, asking him “to review Mr.Lee’s status as an accredited U.N. correspondent,” as Steve Redisch who is VOA Executive Editor and chief deputy to VOA director David Ensor.

Mr. Ensor will soon be stepping down as the Voice of America director, according to a BBG press release and a New York Times report.

READ MORE: “As New York Times ‘Rediscovers’ Voice of America as Propaganda After Ensor Leaves, BBG’s and His Censorship Role FOIA-ed,” Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press, April 15, 2015