The head of the US news agency is accused of attempting to turn the state-funded news organization into a propaganda medium for Donald Trump.
A federal judge in the United States has effectively banned the head of the agency that runs the public news organization Voice of America (VOA) from interfering in editorial operations or making personnel decisions.
The ruling against the CEO of the United States Agency for World Media (USAGM), Michael Pack, comes after he was accused of attempting to turn VOA into a propaganda medium in favor of Donald Trump and the American president’s agenda.
Founded during World War II, VOA has US-funded digital, broadcast, and radio channels in several countries. Some of these outlets are branches of VOA, while others operate as separate entities.
Under its congressional charter, the organization is supposed to present independent news and information to an international audience.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in October by five fired or suspended executives, accused Pack and his senior advisers of violating the “statutory firewall” intended to protect the media outlets. political interference.
In her ruling Friday night, Judge Beryl Howell imposed preliminary injunctions that prevent Pack from making personal decisions about journalists employed by the agency, communicating directly with them, and investigating editorial content or individual journalists. .
Pack and his associates have “raped and continue to rape [journalists’] First Amendment rights because, among other unconstitutional effects, they result in self-censorship and chilling of First Amendment expression, ”Howell wrote in his opinion.
“These actual and unforeseen damages are sufficient to demonstrate irreparable harm.”
Purges and denigration
Pack, a conservative filmmaker and former partner of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, was confirmed in his post in June.
He has since been accused of interfering in VOA’s coverage, including calling for an investigation into a July video report of President-elect Joe Biden whom he called “pro-Biden.”
Pack also reportedly sought to purge leadership from several VOA sister operations, including Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and the Open Technology Fund, which aims to provide secure internet access to people around the world. whole.
Under Pack, foreign journalists working for VOA and other organizations were also denied their U.S. visas, a move he said was in the interest of national security.
In an interview with the Federalist news site in August, Pack said news agencies operating under USAGM were “excellent cover for a spy” and “from the start … they have been penetrated.”
Soon after, 14 VOA journalists sent a letter to management protesting Pack, saying his words and actions “endanger the personal safety of VOA journalists at home and abroad, and threaten to undermine the national security objectives of the United States ”.