Appointments that would have squelched the Voice of America and other media outlets were reversed in the first hours of the Biden administration.
Helping Dreamers or re-entering the Paris Climate Accord got more coverage, but few actions will have more impact on ordinary people around the world.
Voice of America, Radio and TV Marti that reaches Cuba, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks are America’s government-funded media efforts charged with promoting democracy by delivering factual coverage to audiences outside the United States. They do so without partisan slants or White House interference.
The U.S. Global Media Agency that oversees them is a tempting target for any president. What politician wouldn’t want to make sure his or her messages got out by appointing a loyalist to lead it?
Constantly at war with the American press, former President Donald Trump did exactly that. Last year, he appointed Michael Pack as the U.S. Global Media Agency CEO. Pack immediately attempted to purge veteran journalists, censor content he saw as anti-Trump and divert congressionally mandated funding, according to administrative findings and judicial rulings.
President Joe Biden isn’t having any of it. He demanded Pack’s resignation. The Pack-appointed VOA administrator, his deputy and the director of Radio and TV Marti were fired or resigned.
These moves will return confidence and trust in these vital lifelines to the truth. The agency’s prized editorial independence will again serve as a beacon to closed societies like North Korea where people depend on these U.S. media as their only window to the outside world.
Since VOA went on the air in 1942 to counter Nazi propaganda, presidents have resisted the temptation to mess with its mission. In the 1950s, the State Department argued that these efforts were no longer needed. In the face of Russian misinformation efforts, Congress disagreed and established and funded the U.S. Information Agency and its successor, USGMA.
Fake media that manipulates information to reflect only government-approved facts and listeners who have few information choices are hallmarks of dictatorship. Independent media that follow objective standards to report facts have always been the hallmarks of the VOA and the other outlets of the USGMA.
This return to normalcy didn’t make big headlines. As a reinforcement of one of America’s proudest accomplishments, a free and independent press, it should have.
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