BBG Watch Commentary

Susan Rice
Susan Rice

Decline of the Voice of America (VOA) English news website continues as it fails to post and update news stories in a timely fashion. Today, the VOA website featured a Reuters report on the Russian human rights spokesman but had nothing for many hours on U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice sharply criticizing China’s and Russia’s human rights record and Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

UPDATE: Hours after other media outlets reported on the story and apparently many hours after their own correspondent alerted them to the speech and hours after he had written and sent a report, the VOA web team eventually posted his report, Rice: US Faces Tough Choices in Upholding Human Rights Principles, National Security, but not as one of the top news stories. VOA Central Newsroom and VOA English web team had the information from their correspondents, but failed to use it in a timely fashion, as it has been the case many times before.

“The Chinese people are facing increasing restrictions on their freedoms of expression, assembly and association. This is short-sighted,” Susan Rice said in remarks to the “Human Rights First Annual Summit.”

Rice also said that Russia has engaged in “systematic efforts to curtail the actions of Russian civil society,” has stigmatized the lesbian and gay community in Russia and coerced neighbors like Ukraine.

Rather than putting a news report about Rice’s comments on its English-language homepage, the Voice of America featured a Reuters report on a statement from the Kremlin’s human rights advisor suggesting that President Putin may grant amnesty to some political prisoners in Russia.

The VOA English website also used today a Reuters report on Secretary Kerry’s comments about the situation in Ukraine rather than providing its own original reporting. Last Saturday, the VOA website had only one sentence on the State Department’s statement condemning violence against anti-government protesters in Ukraine.

The Voice of America English news website has also failed to report on numerous comments about the situation in Ukraine form members of the U.S. Congress. The VOA website had nothing today on Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD) issuing a statement on the eve of the December 5-6 OSCE Ministerial Council taking place in Kyiv, Ukraine.  Senator Cardin condemned “the brutal dispersal of peaceful protests and beatings of dozens of journalists constitute serious violations of Ukraine’s OSCE commitments on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.” VOA English news also failed to report on Senator McCain’s statement, in which he urged Ukraine’s leaders  to “respect their people’s basic rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, and refrain from acts of violence against peaceful demonstrators.”

Rather than reporting on Ambassador Rice’s statement, the VOA website was featuring what appeared to be another short wire service news story Ukraine’s PM Warns Protesters Not to Escalate Tensions.

VOA Homepage Screenshot, 6PM 12-4-13


00:20 CET Senior Obama adviser criticizes human rights abuses in China…

euronews – ‎12 minutes ago‎

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, in a sweeping review of global human rights practices, singled out China and Russia for criticism on Wednesday over how they treat their citizens. The adviser, Susan Rice, …

No one can feel secure in China: Rice

Business Standard – ‎1 hour ago‎
A top Obama administration official has said that no one can feel secure in China as the country impose strict restrictions on the fundamental rights of its people. “The Chinese people are facing increasing restrictions, on their freedoms of expression, assembly 

Top Obama aide admits ‘painful’ human rights dilemmas

GMA News – ‎2 hours ago‎
WASHINGTON – A top aide to President Barack Obama insisted Wednesday that human rights were at the core of US foreign policy but admitted “painful” trade-offs are sometimes made in the name of national security. National Security Advisor Susan Rice 

Susan Rice slams Russia, China on human rights

Washington Times – ‎9 minutes ago‎
Less than two weeks after the U.S. partnered with China and Russia on a nuclear pact with Iran, White House National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice criticized both nations’ records on human-rights abuses Wednesday. In a speech at a human-rights summit 

Rice Delivers Major Human Rights Speech at Human Rights First Summit

Human Rights First – ‎2 hours ago‎
“Today’s speech was a welcome affirmation of the Obama Administration’s commitment to protecting human rights at home and abroad. Ambassador Rice made a compelling case for why this effort is squarely in the national interest, arguing that short term 


Human Rights First Press Release

CONTACT: Brenda Bowser-Soder, Human Rights First
202-370-3323 |

Rice Delivers Major Human Rights Speech at Human Rights First Summit

Today following a major human rights speech delivered by National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino issued the following statement:

“Today’s speech was a welcome affirmation of the Obama Administration’s commitment to protecting human rights at home and abroad. Ambassador Rice made a compelling case for why this effort is squarely in the national interest, arguing that short term trade-offs cannot alter our foundational values, and that respect for human rights is essential to our security. Detailing not just the ‘easy cases’ but also those where the United States has competing interests, Rice spelled out the ways the administration balances these interests, while seeking to uphold American ideals.  She underscored the administration’s commitment to following through on promises to shutter Guantanamo and take the nation off of its current war-footing. We encourage the administration to double down on efforts to more actively and creatively support human rights defenders in places like Egypt, Bahrain, and Russia, priorities that Ambassador Rice touched on today. We look forward to working with the administration to keep human rights at the heart of U.S. foreign policy today, and in the long term.”

Following today’s remarks, Rice met with human rights defenders from Bahrain, Egypt, Zimbabwe, and the international LGBT community. For more information, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at or 202-370-3323.


White House Statement

Office of the Press Secretary
December 4, 2013

FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Leadership on International Human Rights

“People everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes with faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people — and not the other way around. The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people and for people all across the world.  That was our founding purpose.”
President Barack Obama, September 25, 2012

“Advancing democracy and respect for human rights is central to our foreign policy.  It is what our history and our values demand, but it’s also profoundly in our interests.  That is why the United States remains firmly committed to promoting freedom, opportunity and prosperity everywhere.  We stand proudly for the rights of women, the LGBT community and ethnic minorities.  We defend the freedom for all people to worship as they choose, and we champion open government and civil society, freedom of assembly and a free press.

We support these rights and freedoms with a wide range of tools, because history shows that nations that respect the rights of all their citizens are more just, more prosperous and more secure.”

Ambassador Susan E. Rice, December 4, 2013

On December 4, 2013, Ambassador Susan E. Rice delivered an address outlining the Obama Administration’s global leadership on human rights.  This fact sheet provides further detail on a number of the Administration’s key human rights initiatives highlighted in her remarks.

Advancing LGBT Rights at Home and Abroad

·         Domestically Advancing LGBT Equality:  In his first term, President Obama and his Administration took significant steps toward equality for the LGBT community. The President signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that included important new protections for the LGBT community.  The Obama Administration also issued important guidance to ensure visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones at hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid payments, implemented the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and prohibited discrimination against LGBT people in federally funded housing programs.  Finally, the President also ended the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act and has directed his Department of Justice to work with other departments and agencies to ensure the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor is swiftly implemented, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations.

·         International Initiatives to Advance LGBT Rights and Nondiscrimination:  In December 2011, President Obama signed the first-ever Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons, requiring that federal agencies work together to meet common goals in support of the human rights of LGBT persons globally.  Consistent with these goals, the United States assists activists and individuals under threat around the world through public statements, quiet diplomatic engagement, and targeted programs.  Through the Global Equality Fund and the LGBT Global Development Partnership, the United States works with government and private sector partners to support programs that combat discriminatory legislation; protect human rights defenders; train LGBT leaders on how to participate more effectively in democratic processes; and increase civil society capacity to document human rights violations.  Additional programs and research focus on protecting vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.

·         Combating Criminalization of LGBT Status or Conduct Abroad:  Working with our embassies overseas and civil society on the ground, the United States has developed strategies to combat criminalization of LGBT status or conduct in countries around the world.

·         Engaging International Organizations in the Fight against LGBT Discrimination: The United States works with our partners to defend the human rights of LGBT persons through the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and in other multilateral fora.  In addition to supporting resolutions specific to LGBT issues, such as cosponsoring the historic June 2011 UN Human Rights Council resolution on the human rights of LGBT persons, the United States works to ensure that LGBT persons are included in broader human rights resolutions and statements.

·         Promoting Action and Coordination:  The United States will host in 2014 a global gathering of donors and activists to pursue ways we can work together to strengthen protections for LGBT persons around the world, including by ensuring assistance in this area is strategic and coordinated with our like-minded partners.

More detailed information on U.S. leadership to advance equality for LGBT people abroad is available here.

Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women and Girls at Home and Abroad

·         Promoting Women’s Rights at Home:  Within months of taking office, President Obama created the White House Council on Women and Girls with the explicit mandate to ensure that every agency, department, and office in the federal government takes into account the unique needs and experiences of women and girls. The Obama Administration has worked tirelessly to promote equality; enhance women’s economic security; and ensure that women have the opportunities they deserve at every stage of their lives. The first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps women get the pay they have earned.  In addition, the Affordable Care Act includes more preventive services and additional protections for women.  The Department of Defense announced plans to remove gender-based barriers to combat service and fully integrate women into all occupational specialties.   From signing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act – which provides better tools to law enforcement to reduce domestic and sexual violence and broadens protections to even more groups of women – to extending overtime and minimum-wage protections to homecare workers (90 percent of whom are women), President Obama and his Administration are making deep and lasting investments in America’s future by protecting the human rights of women and girls, and helping them reach their full potential.

·         Advancing Women’s Political and Economic Empowerment: The Equal Futures Partnership is an innovative U.S.-led multilateral initiative designed to encourage member countries to empower women economically and politically.  Equal Futures partner countries commit to taking actions including legal, regulatory, and policy reforms to ensure women fully participate in public life at the local, regional, and national levels, and that they lead and benefit from inclusive economic growth.  The partnership complements U.S. government signature programs in these areas, including efforts to strengthen women’s entrepreneurship through the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women and the Economy initiative, and the Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) initiative.

·         Empowering Women as Equal Partners in Preventing Conflict and Building Peace:  President Obama issued an Executive Order directing the development of the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which was released in December 2011 and focused on strengthening women’s voices and perspectives in decision-making in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity.  The U.S. government is taking concrete stepsto accelerate, institutionalize, and better coordinate efforts to advance women’s participation in peace negotiations, peacebuilding, conflict prevention, and decision-making institutions; protect women from gender-based violence; and ensure equal access to relief and recovery assistance in areas of conflict and insecurity.


Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman
Hon. Christopher H. Smith, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
December 3, 2013


WASHINGTON—On the eve of the December 5-6 OSCE Ministerial Council taking place in Kyiv, Ukraine, Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD) issued the following statement:

“As a long-time supporter of the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people, I am deeply distressed by the recent violence on the streets of Kyiv. The brutal dispersal of peaceful protests and beatings of dozens of journalists constitute serious violations of Ukraine’s OSCE commitments on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. I am particularly concerned by reports that the whereabouts of more than a dozen protesters cannot be determined.

In light of these developments, this is not the time to mince words or engage in obfuscation.  Ministers should take advantage of this opportunity to act in support of Ukrainian democracy. I urge the representatives of the participating States meeting in Kyiv to address these human rights issues in a clear and unequivocal manner.

I commend the representatives of civil society who have met in advance of the Ministerial.  Their voices are critically important for the protection and promotion of human rights and deserve to be heard as part of this meeting.

Ukraine should take immediate steps to fulfill the human rights commitments that all the participating States have freely undertaken by investigating reports of excessive use of force by police and thugs and ensuring that freedom of assembly and association are respected. Ukraine should also implement the standards on the protection of journalists embodied in the draft Ministerial Decision that has been shepherded by the Ukrainian chairmanship.

Finally, I urge the Ukrainian Government to act on the Civil Society Parallel Conference Appeal to establish an international group of experts on these issues and to follow up in the OSCE under next year’s Chair-in-Office, Switzerland. This would be a singular act of leadership in Ukraine’s final days as Chair of the OSCE. It would also be a meaningful step towards addressing the damage to Ukraine’s reputation and restoring confidence in Ukraine’s long-term commitment to human rights and democracy.”



The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 57 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.




Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today released the following statement on the public demonstrations in Ukraine:

“The public demonstrations unfolding in Ukraine are a powerful expression of the high expectations that Ukrainians have for a future of democratic reform, economic opportunity, and integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.

“The eyes of the world are on Ukraine. Ukraine’s leaders should respect their people’s basic rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, and refrain from acts of violence against peaceful demonstrators. At the same time, it is important for those demonstrating to continue doing so peacefully.

“Ukrainians should not be forced to choose between a future in the west or the east. They should be free to chart their nation’s future as they choose, in the best interest of Ukraine’s citizens. As Ukrainians continue to press their government to take the necessary steps to sign an association agreement with the EU, the Ukrainian government should listen to the voices of its people and respond to their legitimate aspirations.”