A senior US official appointed by President Donald Trump has repealed a federal ordinance designed to protect the editorial independence of Voice of America and other US-funded media amid allegations of undermining the journalistic credibility of television broadcasters.
Michael Pack, chief executive of the US Global Media Agency, which repealed the editorial ordinance on the “firewall” late Monday night, said the federal rule was legally illegal, violated the president’s right to conduct US foreign policy and was “inapplicable.” .
Reporters from US-funded television stations have accused Pack of trying to turn the service into a mouthpiece for Trump, and former executives have said they expect legal challenges to the decision.
The federal regulation on editorial independence was introduced in June by an outgoing board of governors that once oversaw US-funded television broadcasters. The board was disbanded after Pak was confirmed by the Senate in a party vote as chief executive of the US Global Media Agency (USAGM), the parent agency for Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and other federally funded television operators.
The regulation, entitled “Firewall and the Highest Standards of Professional Journalism,” prohibits any interference in the editorial work of the American media. It prohibits executives or officials outside the editorial office from “attempting to direct, harass, coerce, threaten, interfere with, or otherwise inadmissibly influence any of the USAGM networks, including their management, officers, employees or staff, in the performance of journalistic their duties and broadcasting activities. “
Announcing his decision Monday night, Puck argued that the regulation erroneously described US-funded sites as equivalent to private news organizations and maintained that the VOA and other television broadcasters had a mission to promote US foreign policy interests, as opposed to private sector media.
He also said the regulation was impractical and could prevent it from fulfilling its legal obligations.
“This rule was not only based on wrong legal and constitutional considerations, but made the agency difficult to manage and less able to fulfill its important mission of informing, engaging and connecting people around the world in support of freedom and democracy,” Pack said. in his statement.
“No agency run by an executive director or other type of manager has a ‘firewall’ between itself and the rest of its agency,” he said.
Press freedom groups, lawmakers from both parties, former agency leaders and current and former journalists at US-funded sites have denied Pak’s term as chief executive, saying he has tarnished television operators’ reputations and damaged America’s image abroad as a free press champion.
At a congressional hearing last month, former USAGM officials sharply criticized Pack for commenting on the front pages of news agencies, firing the head of editorial standards, firing the heads of all television operators, refusing to renew visas for foreign journalists, jobs the agency, withholding funding for some day-to-day operations and stating that the agency would be a “great place to place a spy.”
“Our reputation for telling the truth is a key element of our strength as a nation. It is now in danger, putting at risk not only our national values but also our national security, “said Ryan Crocker, a retired senior diplomat who was a member of the former board of US-funded television operators, told lawmakers in a September hearing. Congress.
Republicans have expressed disappointment, in particular over Pack’s decision to block about $ 20 million in funding for a nonprofit that provides anti-censorship technology to people in repressive societies, including Belarus, China and Iran. They said the move stopped pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and elsewhere in their hour of need.
The US global media agency, with a budget of about $ 800 million, monitors television broadcasters, reaching 350 million people a week in 62 languages.