BBG Watch Commentary
In a clear violation of its congressionally-approved Charter, the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America reposts tweets from Russia’s RT propaganda media outlet, including at least one tweet from an RT photographer who also had posted earlier an altered photo with a fake sign mocking the First Lady Michelle Obama’s call for the release of kidnapped girls in Africa while making an anti-U.S. and anti-President Obama propaganda point with an altered slogan. In response to criticism, however, VOA executives ordered a removal from the VOA website of another propaganda tweet by “Pro-#Russia,#Assad,#Gaddafi. F**k the #EU,#US” shadowy Twitter user. But other questionable retweets, including the ones from Russia’s RT Twitter accounts, have been left on the VOA website.
This particular Russia RT’s tweet (below) of Michelle Obama was NOT reposted by the Voice of America. But VOA has reposted other content from the same RT photographer and is still keeping his other tweet on its main VOA English news website.
U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) kept on its main English news website tweets from President Putin’s propaganda outlet RT, but it has removed a tweet from “Pro-#Russia,#Assad,#Gaddafi. F**k the #EU,#US” shadowy Twitter user who referred to the Ukrainian government in Kyiv as “regime” and blamed it for attacking civilians, even though according to most Ukrainian and Western news reports it was an attack on armed rebels.
The U.S. considers the government in Kyiv as a legitimate government and would not refer to it as a “regime.”
In another tweet from the same user, which was not reposted by VOA, “Steiner1776” called in an on the population to “rise up against the Kiev regime fascists” and in another one made anti-gay comment “Even at an ultra-liberal gay loving contest, Russia finished 7th out of 37 nations competing this year.”
“Steiner 1776” regularly retweets RT, including tweets from the same RT photographer who had mocked Michelle Obama and whose another tweet was kept by VOA. This is not the tweet used by VOA, but it is a good example of what VOA is getting from this RT photographer when it uses his other tweets — “RT Ruptly-Nicolaj (@Nicolaj_Gericke).”
Ukrainian “army” took the first shot, the guy was shot in front of me, it is now confirmed was hit by sniper. he is hospitalized
— RT Ruptly-Nicolaj (@Nicolaj_Gericke) May 9, 2014
This is the “Steiner 1776” tweet which was reposted by the Voice of America on May 11 and later removed. It stayed on the VOA website for many hours.
— Steiner (@Steiner1776) May 9, 2014
While VOA removed a tweet from “F**k#the US” user in response to outside criticism, Russia’s RT tweets left on the Voice of America website are not any better in terms of accuracy and balance — two key elements of the Congress-approved VOA Charter, which has been largely ignored by senior VOA executives in recent years.
An RT news report in one of the RT tweets posted and still being kept on the website by VOA includes additional tweets from Paula Slier, an RT correspondent who was described in an National Geographic news article last week as making “unsubstantiated and incendiary” claims from Ukraine.
Here is another RT tweet from an RT photographer posted over the weekend on the Voice of America website. The same RT photographer had posted earlier the Michelle Obama altered photo.
— RT Ruptly-Nicolaj (@Nicolaj_Gericke) May 8, 2014
The same RT photographer who posted this tweet, which was retweeted and kept by VOA, had posted earlier another tweet with Michelle Obama holding an altered propaganda sign.
Are VOA executives sure that the photo in the RT tweet that Voice of America has posted has not been staged or altered in any way and that it meet’s all of VOA requirements for accuracy, balance and comprehensiveness?
As far as we could determine, the Voice of America has not reposted this particular Michelle Obama RT tweet, but it shows what kind of sources VOA relies on in posting tweets on its news website for worldwide English speaking audiences.
Nothing will bring back the children killed by my husband done strikes pic.twitter.com/v85SWtya8Q
— RT Ruptly-Nicolaj (@Nicolaj_Gericke) May 10, 2014
Other RT tweets, which have been retweeted by the Voice of America, raise numerous questions of editorial control and journalistic judgement. Some of these RT tweets posted on the VOA website link to RT news articles which included content from RT correspondent Paula Slier who reports from eastern Ukraine. In an National Geographic article “The Twitter War: Social Media’s Role in Ukraine Unrest Social media networks are powerful propaganda tools in the Ukrainian crisis – National Geographic,” journalist David Stern shows two of Paula Slier’s recent tweets from eastern Ukraine with these comments: “An unsubstantiated and incendiary claim of the number of fatalities” and “This is a good example of Russia Today’s coverage: The pro-Ukrainians are ‘radicals’ and the pro-Russians are “activists.” Only one side is throwing stones, though it was clearly mutual.”
In our view, VOA’s use of RT news tweets clearly violates VOA Charter requirement that “1. VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.”
These days RT news and tweets from Ukraine are almost never “accurate, objective, and comprehensive,” and neither were RT tweets retweeted by the Voice of America.
The tweet by “Pro-#Russia,#Assad,#Gaddafi. F**k the #EU,#US,” reposted by the Voice of America, was nothing but pure propaganda.
“Steiner1776” tweet also violated the VOA Charter obligation of presenting “responsible [emphasis added] discussions and opinion on these [U.S.] policies.” (Public Law 94-350), unless VOA considers “A frustrated #german and #socialist. Pro-#Russia,#Assad,#Gaddafi. Fuck the #EU,#US. Popular Comittee’s are the solution” shadowy Twitter user as a responsible voice on U.S. foreign policy.
VOA’s use of tweets from the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet not only violates the VOA Charter, but it can also do real damage. As David Stern pointed out in his analysis in a National Geographic article, “Through repetition, and because these ‘reports’ have appeared in a medium of mass communication, all this takes on the veneer of truth, or at least of legitimacy.”
The U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America is adding “the veneer of truth, or at least of legitimacy” to Russia’s RT and fanatical pro-Kremlin supporters.
But it seems that Voice of America director David Ensor appears more worried about becoming a mouthpiece for the White House than a mouthpiece for RT. By leaving on the VOA website a tweet from Russia’s RT photographer, who had earlier mocked Michelle Obama, VOA executives may have proven that VOA is not a mouthpiece for the White House, even though the posted RT Tweets does not meet VOA standards for accuracy and balance. The real question, however, is whether VOA has already become a mouthpiece for the Kremlin’s propaganda due to poor management and lack of editorial standards.
No other major Western international broadcaster posts multiple tweets like VOA does on its English news website or retweets RT without any context, explanation, or a disclaimer. These Western broadcasters may use a tweet from RT to prove a point or to show an example of the Kremlin’s propaganda. They do not use RT tweets as part of their news reports in a way VOA does.
David Ensor said in an interview that VOA should not be a mouthpiece of the White House or anybody else.
“Voice of America is not a propaganda organization and it is not a mouthpiece of the White House or of anybody else. It is a proud journalistic organization more than seventy years old.” — VOA Director David Ensor
Retweeting RT and “Pro-#Russia,#Assad,#Gaddafi. F**k the #EU,#US” is not the only example of questionable management of Voice of America news reporting. Earlier, VOA had posted a map showing Crimea to be part of Russia, even though the United States government has not recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The map stayed on the VOA website uncorrected for many hours.
VOA JOURNALISTIC CODE
The Voice of America Journalistic Code has this provision against using VOA as a platform for special interest groups, foreign or domestic, which retweets from a well known propaganda media outlet such as Russia’s RT would clearly violate unless they are presented and properly analyzed in a VOA news report designed to expose propaganda or biased reporting. Such is not the case with VOA’s current use of RT retweets. The Voice of America is providing a platform for RT without any analysis or challenge of dubious claims in RT and other questionable tweets.
“VOA is alert to, and rejects, efforts by special interest groups, foreign or domestic, to use its broadcasts as a platform for their own views. This applies to all programs and program segments, including opinion or press roundups, programs discussing letters, listener comments, or call-in shows.”