BBG Watch Commentary

As of Monday morning, August 28, 2017, even the very liberal Washington Post had a report on Antifa violence in Berkeley, CA, but not the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA), which had suggested earlier that Antifa “is arguably either a violent far-left militia or a group of human rights activists so dedicated they will risk life and limb to protect democracy.

This screenshot of the search for Antifa Berkeley violence last weekend on the VOA News, website, shows no recent results.

Voice of America (VOA) Berkeley Antifa violence search screen shot 2017-08-28 at 9.47 PM EDT

The Washington Post report was titled “Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley.”

Voice of America director Amanda Bennett and deputy director Sandy Sugawara both have past professional ties to The Washington Post and are Obama administration era appointees. Under their watch and that of BBG CEO John F. Lansing, also an Obama administration era appointee, VOA has been relatively silent on Antifa while posting hundreds of news reports with references to “fascism,” “neo-Nazis,” “racism” and “alt-right.”

The first brief mention of Antifa by VOA News did not happen until July 5, 2017. As of August 23, VOA News English-language website was showing only six reports with references to Antifa compared to hundreds of VOA reports about far-right groups. VOA News almost always fails to point out to its international audiences that both neo-Nazis and Antifa are fringe groups with a small number of supporters whose violent or racist ideas are rejected by the vast majority of Americans and have no community support.

The first VOA News report devoted largely to Antifa suggested that despite its violent tactics, Antifa could be described as “a group of human rights activists” trying “to protect democracy.” One of the few visitors to the VOA website left a sarcastic comment:

“Antifa concerned with protecting Democracy. Lol.

Antifa are as authoritarian and thuggish as their opponents, don’t confuse Anti Fascism with them.”

The Voice of America reported earlier that “the antifa have their fans among some peace-loving activists.”

It is not clear whether VOA reporters and editors may be concerned that some reports of Antifa violence are fake. They have been avoiding posting reports on violent acts by Antifa activists.

Ambassador Karen Kornbluh, a Democratic member of the Voice of America’s oversight board, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), had retweeted a BBC news report showing that in a few instances photos of Antifa violence victims were indeed fake. See: “Far-right smear campaign against Antifa exposed by Bellingcat” | BBC.

There is, however, no doubt among many professional journalists, including those working for The Washington Post, that Antifa activists have been responsible for multiple acts of violence against innocent individuals, including journalists, and destruction of private property.

President Donald Trump has been strongly criticized, including hundreds of quotes in multiple VOA reports, for not clearly and forcefully condemning neo-Nazis for their racism and violence.

There are countless photos and videos on the Internet of Antifa violence which are not fake.

Ambassador Kornbluh’s Twitter account has a disclaimer that “views expressed here only mine; retweets not an endorsement.”

We understand that Twitter is a difficult platform to get things right because it limits the number of words one can post. It would have been possible and helpful, however, that as a presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Ambassador Korhbluh would have included in the introduction to her retweet a short but unequivocal condemnation of Antifa violence.

We don’t know what kind of impact tweets and retweets by BBG Board members, both Democrats and Republicans, have on VOA managers, editors and journalists who may be following them, but many inside and outside critics say that a substantial portion of VOA news content on domestic U.S. politics has been lately highly partisan, non-comprehensive and otherwise violating the VOA Charter.

BBG Member Ambassador Karen Kornbluh Retweet Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 1.32 PM EDT