BBG Watch Commentary
With Russia’s media propaganda offensive over Ukraine in full swing, U.S. taxpayer-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is exposing the Kremlin’s lies and half-truths. But RFE/RL’s programs are regional and local and do not focus on the U.S. government. That’s the job of the Voice of America, where due to mismanagement by top executives, VOA Ukrainian and Russian services do not have resources to update their Facebook pages sometimes for 24 hours. Worldwide VOA English news service — website, social media, radio, TV — and services in more than 40 other VOA foreign languages often do not report on significant U.S. administration statements on Ukraine, including those from the White House, the State Department, and the U.S. Congress.
See: Daily Beast and FT expose ‘Putin’s Crimea Propaganda Machine’, BBG Watch, March 4, 2014
The most recent example of many Kremlin media propaganda-busting news stories missed, ignored and unreported by Voice of America is yesterday’s (March 4, 2014) statement delivered in Vienna, Austria, by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer to a Joint Meeting of the Forum for Security Cooperation and the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
He is far from being the only U.S. official or member of Congress whose statement on Ukraine was not reported by VOA or reported late and superficially. This also happened to President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Kerry, Senator McCain, and others.
Speaking in Vienna on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Baer accused Russia of “perpetuation of a pack of lies.”
“By pushing a fantasy, a big lie, the Russian Federation is not using this forum for what it is for. This forum should be one where we can talk about hard truths. We don’t have to agree, but we should talk about hard truths. This should not be a forum where we disrespect each other by peddling a big lie,” Ambassador Baer said.
Ambassador Baer elaborated on Russia’s propaganda: “this neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic narrative – the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine is saying this is a pure fabrication designed to justify a military incursion and has rejected it outright.”
Due to strong internal and external criticism, including inquires from members of the oversight Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), after weeks of missed, delayed and perfunctory news coverage, VOA executives have increased reporting on Ukraine slightly in the last few days, but it is still mostly hit and miss.
No VOA service — English, Ukrainian, Russian or any other — reported on their news website on U.S. Ambassador Baer’s statement exposing the Kremlin’s media lies.
As late as Monday, VOA Ukrainian Service Facebook page was not being updated for 24 hours and its Twitter account for more than eight hours.
Last Friday, VOA news booth at the White House was empty and dark when President Obama delivered his statement on Ukraine because VOA Director David Ensor and VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch apparently did not make arrangements to quickly replace a former White House correspondent who was among increasing number of VOA journalists leaving the organization unhappy with poor management of news reporting and poor employee morale.
See: Chief WH Correspondent Slams VOA in Resignation Letter, FISHBOWLDC, March 5, 2015
Under its current leadership, VOA has been reporting extensively on the British royal family, Justin Bieber, and even a New York dog show.
In recent weeks, months, and even years, Voice of Russia has been often faster than Voice of America in reporting on U.S. administration statements and foreign policy moves and frequently more comprehensive in its reporting on such U.S. statements in addition to publishing some of the most hard-hitting Cold War style anti-U.S. commentaries, as in this example:
Voice of Russia: “State Department Lies
Finally this quote dated March 4, 2014 by John Kerry: ‘America is proud to be more engaged than ever, and, I believe, is playing as critical a role, perhaps as critical as ever, in pursuit of peace, prosperity, and stability in various parts of the world.’
Yes America is playing a critical role in ‘peace, prosperity and stability’. America is preventing it almost everywhere it may appear. Even in their own country with its divisive politics and decimated population.”[…]
As for the ‘liar-in-chief’? Let’s add ‘historical-revisionist-ommisionist-in-chief’ to his title. He earned it.” — Obama issues Ukraine statement from an alternative universe, Voice of Russia, March 5, 2014.
We doubt that more Voice of America reports on the British royal family and Canadian pop star Justin Bieber will be a good U.S. counterbalance to Voice of Russia news reports and commentaries. In 2011, VOA English news website had more reports in a period of a few days on the British royal wedding than the number of news reports on Ukraine last weekend.
Reply to the Russian Federation: This Forum is For Hard Truths, Not Big Lies
As delivered by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer to a Joint Meeting of the Forum for Security Cooperation and the Permanent Council
Vienna, March 4, 2014
The distinguished delegate of the Russian Federation gave us much to react to. Certainly I can agree with his statement that the hypocrisy on display today is almost unprecedented. This reminds me of something my old boss used to say when we met with repressive regimes elsewhere in the world. He would turn to me and say, “I’d rather have my talking points than his.”
I’d rather have my talking points than his.
I join my German colleague in noting there was not much new information provided here, and there remain discrepancies that need to be clarified. And it is a perfectly legitimate question for the government of Ukraine, or for any of us, to ask for the clarification of those discrepancies.
The Russian Federation is pushing the line that it is purely coincidence that a military exercise of 150,000 people happened at the same time as the crisis in Ukraine and the subsequent illegal military incursion on Ukraine’s territory. In order to believe that this is just a coincidence you would have to believe that the authorities were foolish – that they couldn’t foresee the effects of mobilizing 150,000 troops in an exercise of this kind at a moment like this. I don’t believe they are so foolish. And so the perpetuation of this story – that it is just some magical coincidence these two things happened at the same time – is not only far-fetched, it’s disrespectful to all of us.
There followed a version of a fantasy which has no correspondence in any reality reported anywhere other than by the Russian government or by its own state-controlled media outlets. We have contested facts – again, I join others in saying the right way to establish facts is to get eyes and ears on the ground in the form of international monitors or observers of some sort or other. We can engage and assess contested facts. But the perpetuation of a pack of lies – this neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic narrative – the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine is saying this is a pure fabrication designed to justify a military incursion and has rejected it outright.
By pushing a fantasy, a big lie, the Russian Federation is not using this forum for what it is for. This forum should be one where we can talk about hard truths. We don’t have to agree, but we should talk about hard truths. This should not be a forum where we disrespect each other by peddling a big lie.
All of us should remain open to engagement with the Russian Federation, trying to in good faith clarify the reasons for the actions that have been taken and find a way to de-escalate them and return to a situation where the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine are respected; where Russia’s concerns about the security of its own military forces – if they are genuine concerns – are addressed; and where concerns that are raised about human rights or other conditions within Ukraine are being addressed through the various mechanisms at our disposal.
But everybody in this room should think about the outrageous insult that has just been leveled at each of us by that pack of lies peddled by the Russian Federation. We shouldn’t hold a grudge, we should remain open to engagement, but that is not what this forum is for.
Hard truths, not big lies.