BBG Watch Commentary

UPDATE 3:00PM ET, Dec. 30: A brief reference to the NSC – White House statement on terrorist attacks in Russia has now appeared — not in an original VOA report from Washington – but in a report from Reuters posted on the VOA English website. As of 3:00 PM ET, this report from Reuters shows only 1 (one) Facebook “Like” on the VOA site. While Al Jazeera, BBC, and RT (Russia Today) got thousands of Facebook “Likes” for their reports on the Volgograd bombings, the ones posted by VOA — often late, with wrong information and un-updated — rarely got more than a few dozen Facebook “Likes” and Tweets.

Ambassador McFaul’s, State Department’s and White House statements on the terrorist attacks in Russia, as well as reactions of U.S. experts and ordinary Americans to these attacks, do deserve separate treatment and original reporting from the Voice of America, which is 100% funded by U.S. taxpayers to communicate about the world and America with audiences abroad.

VOA Director David Ensor
VOA Director David Ensor

It’s one thing to be a mouthpiece for someone, but another thing not to do what the U.S. law — the VOA Charter — clearly requires the Voice of America to do. VOA Director Ensor is taking his statement that “Voice of America is not a propaganda organization and it is not a mouthpiece of the White House or of anybody else” to absolute extremes. Not reporting on U.S. policies, such as ignoring by VOA or mentioning only in one sentence major statements on foreign policy by Vice President Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, is a violation of the VOA Charter. See: VOA is Nobody’s Mouthpiece, From the Director, David Ensor, Voice of America

Also see: Voice of America ignored bipartisan statements on Ukraine from Biden and McCain, BBG Watch

This is not protecting VOA’s journalistic independence but managerial and journalistic incompetence of major proportions. This is what the vast majority of VOA journalists are saying as well, according to BBG Watch sources at the Voice of America.

Amb. McFaul Facebook Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 1.20.41 PMThe Voice of America (VOA) Russian Service is reporting on the statement posted on the White House website, in which National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden expresses U.S. condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Russia. But the Voice of America English website and websites of more than 40 other VOA language service are not reporting this news.

VOA English News has also not reported on the U.S. State Department statement issued after yesterday’s first attack in Volgograd. Not just the U.S. government but also ordinary Americans are shocked and horrified by the terrorist attacks in Russia. The Voice of America ought to be reporting on these reactions.

The VOA English website was not updating its news yesterday for many hours on the first terror attack and did not correct disputed information, which all major international media outlets had questioned.

The VOA Russian Service was initially slow in reporting U.S. reactions to the attacks, but its coverage has improved. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Radio Liberty (Radio Svoboda) Russian Service has provided outstanding continuous news coverage of the terrorist attacks, but RFE/RL’s Russian Service, based in the Czech Republic and Russia, does not specialize in reporting U.S. reactions to worldwide audiences. This is VOA’s mission.

The VOA English website, however, still shows outdated information and is not reporting on U.S. reactions.

Ironically, Russia’s state-funded international media outlet RT (Russia Today) was quick in reporting on statements from U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and the State Department.

RT is also reporting on other official international reactions to the terrorist attacks.

After a delay of several hours, one of the VOA reports mentioned briefly Ambassador McFaul’s statement of condolences, but that report cannot be easily found on the VOA English website and other information in it is incorrect and outdated. In effect, the VOA English website is not reporting on U.S. reactions to the terrorist attacks in Russia and neither is the vast majority of more than 40 VOA language services.

White House NSC Russia 12-30-13

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 30, 2013
Statement by NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden on Attacks in Russia

The United States condemns the terrorist attacks that struck the Russian city of Volgograd and sends deepest condolences to the families of the victims with hopes for the rapid healing of those wounded.

The United States stands in solidarity with the Russian people against terrorism.  The U.S. government has offered our full support to the Russian government in security preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games, and we would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation for the safety of the athletes, spectators, and other participants.

The Voice of America English website is also not informing international audiences about the State Department statement issued yesterday afternoon.

VOA English News website is still not reporting on  this State Department statement as of Monday, 2PM ET. The statement was posted online Sunday in the afternoon in Washington, DC.
VOA English News website is still not reporting on this State Department statement as of Monday, 2PM ET. The statement was posted online Sunday in the afternoon in Washington, DC.

VOA Charter, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1976 as public law in the United States, requires the Voice of America to report on U.S. news and American society.

1. VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.

2. VOA will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.

3. 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)