BBG Watch Commentary
Badly managed, U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) often misses U.S. news stories of importance for international audiences and Washington’s relations with other countries and the latest State Department spokeswoman’s comment on a controversy between Washington and Warsaw is no exception.
VOA did not report Monday’s comments by U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf that “the United States and Poland have an incredibly strong relationship.”
Ms. Harf was responding to a question about leaked audio tapes with private conversations of high-ranking Polish government officials, in which a person identified as Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski is saying the Polish-American alliance is not worth anything and is even harmful because it creates a false sense of security for Poland.
Voice of America has so far completely ignored this news story in its online reporting while it has been reported in recent days by BBC, Russia’s RT, Deutsche Welle (DW) and many other major international and U.S. media outlets.
RT gave the news story its own, pro-Kremlin propaganda perspective while VOA failed to provide international audiences not only with the facts but also with the U.S. government’s official reaction to the brewing controversy. RT said that Polish FM’s “oral sex comment on U.S. ‘shows his political realism’.” Voice of America said nothing.
Some suspect that Russian security services may have had a hand in the leak of secretly recorded conversations to create a riff in U.S.- Polish relations and to embarrass Poland’s foreign minister, but there is no proof as to who may have been behind this disclosure.
Mr. Sikorski has been known to be a strong supporter to the transatlantic alliance and advocate of close ties with Washington and U.S. military presence in Poland, although like many Central European politicians and other U.S. allies he is also believed to be unhappy with the Obama Administration’s handling of foreign policy.
Ms. Harf said that she cannot comment on alleged tapes or confirm their authenticity or background.
MS. HARF: “But more broadly, the United States and Poland have an incredibly strong relationship. You saw recently the Secretary certainly has been there, has been meeting, including with the foreign minister. And this is a relationship based on shared values. It remains strong. It’s a key part of our alliances in that part of the world. And the crisis in Ukraine, I think, has made that even more the case, where we’re confronting a shared threat together. So I can’t comment on the authenticity of the tapes, but I know that the Secretary and the foreign minister have a very good relationship and we’ll continue to have one with Poland.”
While the Voice of America has so far been silent on this news story about U.S.-Polish relations, Russia’s RT, BBC, Deutsche Welle (DW) and numerous other international and U.S. news outlets have published reports yesterday and even several days earlier.
VOA English news website did report several days about the secret Polish recordings, not in its own news report, but in a report from Reuters which VOA posted online. At that time, however, Mr. Sikorski’s comments were not yet mentioned and there was no controversy involving U.S.-Polish relations.
This raises questions as to why VOA would ignore this story when it began to shed a negative light on the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. Some may suspect a deliberate act, but it may also be a result of major confusion and mismanagement of news reporting at the Voice of America.
Critics say that VOA has suffered a management meltdown and its news reporting is completely dysfunctional.
Under the VOA Charter (U.S. Public Law 94-350), the Voice of America has an obligation to “present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and … also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.”
READ: Voice of America leaves it to Russian RT to report on US-Poland scandal, BBG Watch, June 24, 2014.
ALSO READ: Polish FM’s oral sex comment on US ‘shows his political realism’ – Moscow, RT, June 23, 2014.
ALSO READ: Poland leak: Radek Sikorski scorns ‘worthless’ US ties, BBC, June 23, 2014.
ALSO READ: Komorowski, Tusk and Sikorski try to fix Poland-US mess, Deutsche Welle, June 23, 2014.
Daily Press Briefing
Monday, June 23, 2014
MS. HARF: Yes. Poland.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you, Marie.
MS. HARF: If I had to guess.
QUESTION: Marie, one of the weekly magazines in Poland published audio tapes with conversations of high-ranking government officials, and on one of the tapes a person identified as Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski is saying the Polish-American alliance isn’t worth anything, is even harmful because it creates a false sense of security for Poland. So is this true? What’s your comment on this?
MS. HARF: Well, I can’t comment on alleged tapes. I can’t confirm their authenticity or background. I’m just not in a position to verify that. But more broadly, the United States and Poland have an incredibly strong relationship. You saw recently the Secretary certainly has been there, has been meeting, including with the foreign minister. And this is a relationship based on shared values. It remains strong. It’s a key part of our alliances in that part of the world. And the crisis in Ukraine, I think, has made that even more the case, where we’re confronting a shared threat together. So I can’t comment on the authenticity of the tapes, but I know that the Secretary and the foreign minister have a very good relationship and we’ll continue to have one with Poland.
QUESTION: Are you still willing to work with Mr. Sikorski —
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: — after comments like this?
MS. HARF: Again, I can’t verify the authenticity of these comments – excuse me. But absolutely, we have a very strong relationship with the foreign minister.
QUESTION: In addition to the Secretary’s visit, I believe the President —
MS. HARF: President, yes, yes, yes.
QUESTION: — was actually there not so long ago.
MS. HARF: At the same time.
QUESTION: Yeah, indeed.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The question, though, is: Have – are you aware of hearing – of people hearing this kind of sentiment in conversations with Polish officials?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. As I said, I mean, quite frankly, we have a very strong relationship with Poland, had a really good visit there with the President, as you mentioned, and the Secretary.
QUESTION: Regardless of whether it was Mr. Sikorski saying this on the tape or not, you would disagree with the comments whoever was —
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: — whoever was speaking?
MS. HARF: Whoever said those comments.
QUESTION: Whoever said it was wrong, right? Can I ask you —
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: — why?
MS. HARF: Because we have a very strong relationship that’s based on shared values. Again, I mentioned Ukraine. All you have to do is look at the crisis in Ukraine and how we’re consulting and working with all of our allies, including Poland, to confront this threat together. So I think that just underscores how important NATO is, how important all of our partners are there.
QUESTION: So you would – better go to someone else because I can’t —
MS. HARF: Okay, Lucas.
QUESTION: — I can’t frame this question correctly.