USAGM Watch Media Commentary

In a commentary published in The Hill, Ted Lipien — a former VOA Polish Service chief during Solidarity’s struggle for democracy and later acting VOA associate director — writes about a video on VOA’s YouTube channel showing Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus speaking at a World War II anniversary ceremony in St. Petersburg. The footage included “propaganda messages from the last two autocrats in Europe, which had already been widely reported by state media in Russia and Belarus. There was no added context or balance from VOA.” Lipien asks: “why would Voice of America want to repeat, under its logo, what these two master propagandists wanted to say, without challenging their narrative? And was it appropriate to end the video with the VOA slogan ‘Free Press Matters’?”  

Current and former VOA journalists and executives are quoted, including one who said “this seems like some promo, worse yet, a platform for Putin,” while another stated that “clips used in a BALANCED news report would have been in order (if some sort of news were made).” 

The recent VOA Putin video is not the first of its kind. It is one of many. In the last several years, VOA journalists have glorified Che Guevara and Angela Davis, and posted videos showing the burning of Israeli and U.S. flags. These violent images have received hundreds of thousands of views in the Middle East and many in the United States. No wonder Hamas terrorists seemed confident that Western journalists would find excuses for their slaughter of defenseless Jewish women and children. Even taxpayer-funded U.S. journalists give them aid and comfort.

Current USAGM CEO and former VOA director Amanda Bennett had been a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board, which in 2003 had refused to revoke the 1932 Pulitzer Prize given to Walter Duranty. This New York Times Moscow correspondent had been a chief Western apologist for Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. He denied in his reports that millions of peasants were starving to death in the communist-engineered famine in Ukraine in the 1930s.

“The Pulitzer Prize board should have withdrawn his prize long ago, but it did not,” Lipien wrote.

I see the same reluctance of the senior agency leaders to challenge VOA journalists, whom they have hired, praised and promoted, as long as they advance a preferred ideological narrative under cover of “free press.”  

READ: “Putin’s influencers? Why is taxpayer-funded VOA spreading his propaganda?” | The Hill


February 7, 2024