BBG Watch Commentary

Senator John McCain
Senator John McCain

Russia’s state media outlet RT – Russia Today and media in Europe are reporting on Senator John McCain’s planned trip to Ukraine, but this news has not appeared on the Voice of America (VOA) English news website. It also has not been reported on most VOA foreign language websites. UPDATE: VOA eventually reported on McCain’s trip to Ukraine.

According to RT – Russia Today and reports, Senator John McCain is scheduled to visit Ukraine on Saturday and Sunday. See: “Mass protests in Kiev: LIVE UPDATES,” RT – Russia Today, December 14, 2013.

The Daily Beast reported hours ago that “Sen. John McCain will become the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Ukraine since government violence against street protestors engulfed its capital last week.” “He will express support and solidarity with the protests,” The Daily Beast reported.

“Senator McCain is traveling to Ukraine to meet with government officials, opposition leaders and civil society at this critical time as Ukrainians work to determine their future,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers confirmed to The Daily Beast.

McCain leaves for Kiev tonight and will be there Saturday and Sunday. Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, is joining the trip Sunday. He is coordinating the trip with the State Department. U.S. Senator Chris Murphy is Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs.

Read more: “Exclusive: McCain Flies to Ukraine as Protests Rage,” by Josh Rogin, December 13th 20134:06 PM.

The Voice of Russia (VOR), another Russian state international broadcaster, is also reporting on Senator McCain’s visit to Ukraine. See: “US Senator McCain to travel to Ukraine,” Voice of Russia, December 14, 2013.

While Russian, Ukrainian and other Eastern and Central European media immediately reported on Senator McCain’s planned trip to Ukraine, the Voice of America English website did not.

The Voice of America’s failure to report on McCain’s mission is simply astounding. The Voice of America Charter, which is public law in the United States, says that “VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies. (Public Law 94-350).”

If Russia Today, Voice of Russia, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast and numerous other media in Europe and in the U.S. are reporting on this trip, there is no excuse for VOA not to report the announcement of the trip as well. Some East European media reports make a point that Senator McCain is a former U.S. presidential candidate. European journalists and audiences would certainly find it difficult to understand why the Voice of America would not report on his planned trip to Ukraine.

“It not a question of partisan bias because Senator McCain is a chief spokesman of the Republican Party on foreign policy issues,” a former senior VOA executive told BBG Watch. “The current Voice of America leadership has mismanaged news handling to such a degree that the VOA English News also failed to report on Vice President Biden’s recent phone conversation with Ukraine’s President Yanukovych,” the expert said.

The VOA Ukrainian Service website, which otherwise has excellent coverage of events in Ukraine, is also not reporting on Senator McCain’s visit to Kyiv. The Ukrainian Service has been working extremely hard for several weeks with very limited personnel resources in an organization in a complete disarray due to poor leadership and bad management.

As of 10:30PM Friday, other VOA language services, including the Russian Service, are not reporting the news of Senator McCain’s and Senator Murphy’s trip to Ukraine.

SENATOR-MURPHY-OFFICIAL-PORTRAIT-smallThe Voice of America English news website also failed to report on a Senate resolution on Ukraine introduced Friday by U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Ranking Member on the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The VOA Ukrainian Service did report on the proposed the Senate resolution. VOA English Service and other VOA language services, including the VOA Russian Service, did not report on the Senate resolution nor on Senator McCain’s and Senator Murphy’s planned trip to Ukraine. This is seen as yet another failure of VOA executives and their approach to news management. The Voice of America no longer has a functioning central newsroom.

The text of the proposed resolution, which expresses “the sense of the Senate that the Senate stands with the people of Ukraine as they continue to peacefully call for closer alignment with the European Union, despite facing unacceptable violence from the Ukrainian government,” has been posted for hours on Senator Murphy’s website.


Friday, December 13, 2013

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Ranking Member on the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced a resolution to express the sense of the Senate that the Senate stands with the people of Ukraine as they continue to peacefully call for closer alignment with the European Union, despite facing unacceptable violence from the Ukrainian government. Over the past two weeks, the Ukrainian government has engaged in brutal reprisals against the public demonstrations, resulting in numerous arrests, detentions, and even hospitalizations in the capital of Kiev.

The senators are calling for a peaceful and democratic conclusion to the crisis that ultimately allows Ukraine to become an active member of the European community. Furthermore, the resolution calls for the United States Senate to consider sanctions against those responsible for any further acts of violence against peaceful demonstrators.

“The Ukrainian people understand that they have gotten a raw deal from their government,” the senators said. “Ukrainians are protesting in the streets today because they know they’re being sold out by their government for short-term monetary gain from Russia, and they rightly fear the long-term economic cost to Ukraine’s economy. It’s unacceptable that these peaceful demonstrations are being met with aggressive resistance and even violence by the Yanukovych government. This resolution makes clear that further violence by the government will have consequences for our bilateral relationship. Hopefully President Yanukovych will realize that his government will ultimately need to move in the direction its people want to succeed in the future.”

Full text of the resolution:

Title: Expressing support for the Ukrainian people in light of President Yanukovych’s decision not to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union.

Whereas, according to a poll conducted in November 2013, a majority of the people of Ukraine supported signing an historic trade and political agreement with the European Union;

Whereas a closer association between Ukraine and the European Union has been supported by Ukrainian civil society, business leaders, and politicians across the political spectrum and would bring lasting political, democratic, and economic benefits to the people of Ukraine;

Whereas Ukraine successfully passed much of the legislation required to conform to European Union standards for signing an Association Agreement;

Whereas, on September 22, 2012, and November 18, 2013, the Senate unanimously passed resolutions calling for a demonstrable end to selective justice and expressing its belief that Ukraine’s future lies with stronger ties to Europe, the United States, and others in the community of democracies;

Whereas the experience of countries such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia provides a positive example of increased economic opportunity, enhanced personal freedom, and good governance. which can also be realized by Ukraine;

Whereas the Government and people of Ukraine have the sovereign right to choose their own foreign policy and economic course, and no other country has the right to determine their political and economic orientation, nor decide which alliances and trade agreements they can join;

Whereas, on November 21, 2013, President Viktor Yanukovych suspended Ukraine’s preparations for signing the Association Agreement one week before a critical European Union Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania;

Whereas the abrupt reversal on the eve of the summit following Russian economic coercion and to protect the narrow interests of some officials and individuals in Ukraine prompted hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians all across the country, especially young people and students, to protest the decision and stand in support of furthering Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration;

Whereas international nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations provide essential care to needy Ukrainians, yet face direct threats and challenges to their existence and administrative and regulatory impediments, including challenges to operating with the tax-exempt status necessary to maximize the use of funds on the ground and threats to the fabric of civil society vital to democracy in Ukraine;

Whereas, on November 30, 2013, at Independence Square in Kyiv, special division police dispersed a peaceful demonstration of students and civil society activists who were calling on President Yanukovych to sign the Association Agreement;

Whereas approximately 35 individuals were detained or arrested, and dozens were hospitalized, some with severe injuries;

Whereas, on December 9, 2013, raids were conducted on three opposition media outlets and the headquarters of one opposition party;

Whereas, on December 11, 2013, Ukrainian authorities conducted an overnight police operation in an attempt to forcefully take control of Independence Square, but were resisted by brave Ukrainians who filled the square and rebuffed the police action;

Whereas all three former Presidents of Ukraine have underscored the need to refrain from violence and the importance of engaging in a dialogue with the opposition; and

Whereas Ukraine faces an impending economic crisis that can only be solved with long term economic reforms: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) stands with the people of Ukraine and supports their sovereign right to chart an independent and democratic future for their country;

(2) urges leaders in the United States and the European Union to continue working together actively to support a peaceful and democratic resolution to the current crisis that moves Ukraine toward a future in the Euro-Atlantic community and a long-term solution to Ukraine’s economic crisis;

(3) encourages demonstrators and members of the opposition and civil society in Ukraine to continue avoiding the use of violence and engage in a dialogue of national reconciliation;

(4) urges all political parties to refrain from hate speech or actions of an anti-Semitic or other character which further divide the Ukrainian people when they need to be united;

(5) calls on the Government of Ukraine to refrain from further use of force or acts of violence against peaceful protestors, and to respect the internationally-recognized human rights of the Ukrainian people, especially the freedoms of speech and assembly;

(6) condemns the decision by Ukrainian authorities to use violence against peaceful demonstrators on November 30, December 1, and December 11, 2013, and calls for those responsible to be swiftly brought to justice and all detained nonviolent demonstrators to be immediately released; and

(7) notes that in the event of further state violence against peaceful protestors, the Administration and Congress should consider whether to apply targeted sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, against individuals responsible for ordering or carrying out the violence.