BBG Watch Commentary

Voice of AmericaThe U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA), which once offered breaking international news coverage and had millions of radio listeners in Eastern Europe, was more than four hours late behind BBC Sunday in reporting on its English news website on the death of Poland’s last communist leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski.

VOA was not only embarrassingly late behind other major international media outlets in reporting on General Jaruzelski’s death, it also did not have ready and did not post an obituary of this highly controversial but historic figure.

BBC posted a news report and a separate multimedia obituary at about 11:20 AM EDT, Sunday, May 25, 2014. The Voice of America did not post its short news report on General Jaruzelski’s death until 3:26 PM EDT.

As of 11:26 PM EDT Sunday, eight hours after it was posted, the VOA report on General Jaruzelski’s death had only one Facebook “Share.”

Despite VOA’s mandate to report U.S. news and report on U.S. policies, the VOA news on the death of General Jaruzelski did not mention President Reagan’s role in, not only contributing to the downfall of Jaruzelski’s military junta, but also Reagan’s and Vice President George H.W. Bush’s role in encouraging talks between Jaruzelski’s regime and the Solidarity trade union.

The VOA news report also failed to mention that in just a few days, President Obama is planning to visit Poland to take part in commemorations of the 25th anniversary of the first post-World War II democratic Polish elections which resulted in a victory of candidates supported by Solidarity and in eventual replacement of Jaruzelski by Walesa as Poland’s president.

VOA’s failure to mention President Obama’s planned trip to Poland to mark the anniversary of 1989 democratic elections that led to the removal of Jaruzelski from power was especially glaring considering U.S. support for those elections and the VOA Charter which requires VOA to report news related to U.S. policies. VOA also failed to provide any U.S. reactions to Jaruzelski’s death, although it could have tried to ask for comments such American political figures as former President George H.W. Bush or former National Security Advisor Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski.

By not doing anything extra that the VOA Charter requires it to do, the Voice of America was no different than news wires in reporting on this news story except that it was many hours late. One wonders what VOA’s value is to U.S. taxpayers and audiences abroad if it can’t even connect President Obama’s trip to Poland with this news, not to mention significant U.S. role in helping the democratic transition in Poland that led to a peaceful transfer of power from General Jaruzelski to Lech Walesa.