Press release June 16, 2020
United States: Attacks on Voice of America Undermine Press Freedom
The Trump administration's blacklisting of Voice of America journalists risks press freedom at home and abroad.
In response to recent actions taken by the Trump administration to undercut the Voice of America (VOA), a US global broadcast news agency, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“VOA is one of the largest and most trusted independent news agencies in the world,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “Efforts to blacklist VOA journalists from interview requests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are an unprecedented attack on press freedom in the United States.”
“VOA is often one of the few critical and independent voices available in countries without a free press, such as Russia and China. Restrictions on VOA at home will be noted by illiberal leaders abroad, who may follow the example of the United States and crack down on VOA or other independent outlets in their countries, limiting access to essential information including about the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States should be an exemplar, not a detractor, of press freedom around the world.”
“The administration must respect and commit to maintaining the firewall that prohibits political interference in VOA’s independent reporting.”
On June 14, VOA reported on documents released under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Knight First Amendment Institute that revealed instructions to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff to ignore media requests from VOA journalists. As justification, the instructions referenced an April 10 statement from the White House that falsely accused VOA of using taxpayer money to promote foreign propaganda.
Also in April, President Trump verbally attacked VOA, calling its coverage of the United States “disgusting.” VOA director Amanda Bennett and deputy director Sandy Sugawara resigned from their positions on June 15.
Funded by the US government, VOA was founded in 1942 to report on World War II and has since worked to provide independent and objective news in more than 40 languages to audiences in approximately 100 countries around the world. VOA’s independence is protected under the 1994 US International Broadcast Act, which guarantees a firewall that prohibits government interference in its work.
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