USAGM Watch Commentary

Russian state TV and web news channel RT was more than half an hour ahead of the U.S. tax-funded ($252 million in FY20) Voice of America (VOA) in reporting Saturday on President Biden’s Armenian Genocide statement.

By Friday, journalists and anybody in Washington, Istanbul, Yerevan, Moscow or anywhere else who follows closely international affairs and U.S. politics knew that President Biden was going to issue on Saturday his statement on the Armenian Genocide. Top executives at the Voice of America and its parent federal agency, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), should have known it as well.

VOA editors and reporters should have been ready to post their report as soon as the White House issued Biden’s Armenian Genocide statement. But under the old VOA and USAGM dysfunctional leadership, the VOA newsroom was late, as it has been usually the case under the same management for several years. VOA was easily beaten on posting this important news story by Russia’s RT and many other international and U.S. media outlets. The time stamp on the RT report is in GMT, four hours ahead of EDT. RT was more than half an hour faster than VOA in posting its Armenian Genocide report.

Good enough for government work is not enough to run a news organization. Top VOA and USAGM executives should be held accountable for multiple news reporting failures and violations of the VOA Charter for at least the last ten years, if not more. Some of them have been in charge of various key VOA and USAGM operations for at least that long, if not longer.

Unlike the Voice of America which was late, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which also falls under the U.S. Agency for Global Media but is better managed and more independent, posted its Armenian Genocide story on its main English-language news website a few minutes ahead of Russia’s RT.

Kudos to RFE/RL and its President Jamie Fly.

RFE/RL newsroom is in Prague, Czechia; VOA newsroom is in Washington, only several blocks from the White House.

SEE: Biden Recognizes WWI-Era Killings Of Armenians As Genocide, RFE/RL, April 24, 2021, 16:06 GMT, UPDATED 20:49 GMT.

If the Voice of America is to get more money to counter Chinese propaganda under the bipartisan bill, S. 1169, the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Republican Ranking Member, Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), both key senators and other Democrats and Republicans in Congress need to make sure that VOA and USAGM have effective leaders in charge of good and unbiased editors.

Long after RT posted its story and even after Voice of America had its own buried toward the bottom of its homepage, the top VOA story on the English-language website was: “Returning to the Office After COVID Could Be Stressful.”

Recently, it took the Voice of America five days after Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued his statement on Wednesday, April 7, which was critical of U.S. Agency of Global Media (USAGM) CEO Kelu Chao’s personnel selection, to post a report in English on his criticism.  A VOA report was written on Friday but not released until Monday, two days after USAGM Watch first signaled VOA’s delay in releasing the story.

READ: Voice of America Delayed For Five Days Posting Story on Senator Menendez Criticism of USAGM CEO OCB Appointment, USAGM Watch, April 12, 2021.

In April 2014, BBG Watch had a commentary on the operation of the Voice of America newsroom, also in connection with the Armenian Genocide Day. Nothing much has changed since then under some of the same managers who are still in charge of key VOA and USAGM journalistic and administrative operations. In 2014, the Voice of America was also easily outperformed in terms of speed and volume of reporting on the Armenian Genocide story.

Voice of America English News website fails to report on Obama’s statement on Armenian Remembrance Day and Congressional visit to Armenia, BBG Watch, April 25, 2014.

Voice of America (VOA) English News website and most of VOA’s language services failed to report on President Obama’s statement on “Armenian Remembrance Day” and on Congressional visit to Armenia, during which members of the delegation laid flowers at the Genocide Memorial in the country’s capital Yerevan. It appears that only VOA Armenian Service and VOA Turkish Service had an online report on President Obama’s statement.

VOA Armenian Service also reported on the visit of the congressional delegation to Yerevan, but not on the laying of flowers at the Genocide Memorial. Next day, Friday, the VOA Armenian Service report on the President Obama’s statement showed only one Tweet and one Facebook “Share” as of 10:30 AM EDT. The VOA Armenian Service report on the congressional delegation’s meeting with Armenia’s president, which did not mention their visit to the Genocide Memorial, showed only one Tweet and three Facebook “Shares” as of 10:30 AM EDT Friday, a day after it was posted.

ALSO SEE: Voice of America English Newsroom Failed to Notice Cuba Freedom Song ‘Patria y Vida’, USAGM Watch, April 23, 2021.

READ ON USAGM Watch: Russia’s RT Beat Voice of America on Biden Armenian Genocide Story