BBG Watch Commentary

Nine hours later, the Voice of America is still not reporting on a State Department statement on violations of press freedom in Russia.

Marie Harf
Marie Harf

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday early afternoon it is “disappointed” that U.S. journalist and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) adviser David Satter has been denied a visa by Russian authorities, but as of 11:00 PM ET, U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) has not yet reported this news neither on its English nor Russian website.

Both websites, VOA English and VOA Russian, have reports on David Satter’s case posted early afternoon that have not been updated with the latest information for the last nine hours.

Satter told VOA’s Russian service Tuesday in an interview via Skype from London that he thought the actions against him were politically motivated and evidence that “the Russian regime is losing its confidence.”

“I believe that to a certain extent they understand that the ground under their feet is not a secure as it once was, and they don’t want journalists in Moscow who are capable of understanding what’s happening in the country,” said Satter.

But as of 11:00 PM ET, Voice of America has not yet reported on the 2:00 PM State Department statement.

VOA is also not reporting on a statement issued by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman, Jeff Shell, who said that the “Broadcasting Board of Governors views the Russian government’s denial of a visa to David Satter, an RFE/RL journalist adviser, as gross interference in the operations of Radio Liberty.”

“The BBG and the management of RFE/RL demand that this decision from Russia regarding Mr. Satter be reversed,” Shell said.

The BBG board oversees civilian U.S. international media worldwide, including RFE/RL and VOA.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on January 14 around 2:00 PM ET that “hindering the free flow of information undermines the kind of open environment for free debate and discussion that supports innovation and dynamism, and we’ll continue to monitor the case.”

She also said that the U.S. State Department is “disappointed that Russian authorities denied a visa” to David Satter. Her press briefing at the State Department concluded at 2:06 PM ET.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported promptly in English and other languages on the State Department’s comments about the Russian visa denial.

The Voice of America, whose congressional VOA Charter requires it not only to present news but also “to present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively,” has again failed to fulfill its Charter obligation, which is public law in the United States. Unlike RFE/RL, which has a targeted regional audience, VOA broadcasts and distributes news programs worldwide.

It is ironic that VOA failed to report news that directly affect its own federal agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors and failed to note a statement on press freedom by BBG Chairman Jeff Shell.

Such news failures by VOA, however, have been common. In recent weeks, VOA failed to report or reported late and only superficially on important U.S. foreign policy statements from President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and chief Republican spokesman on U.S. foreign policy Senator John McCain. Vice President Biden’s statement on which VOA failed to report promptly or at any length was a speech in Beijing about restrictions of freedom of the press in China.

State Department Daily Press Briefing

14 January 2014

U.S. Department of State
On-Camera Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
1:30 p.m. EST
Briefer: Marie Harf, Deputy Spokesperson

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Russia’s expulsion of a journalist who was critical of President Putin?

MS. HARF: I do. I think – are you referring to David Satter?


MS. HARF: So we are disappointed that Russian authorities denied a visa to RFERL – to Radio Free Europe – advisor David Satter. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has raised our concerns on this case and the treatment of journalists and media organizations in general with Russian authorities.

As we’ve said many times before, hindering the free flow of information undermines the kind of open environment for free debate and discussion that supports innovation and dynamism, and we’ll continue to monitor the case.

QUESTION: And I’m very sorry. You are quite right, and I misstated it, that it was a visa denial.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

Read more: State Department Daily Press Briefing, 14 January 2014