Stifling Free Speech Abroad; Board of Governors Abandons U.S. Principles

Article excerpt


The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) has gone too far, and once again in the wrong direction. To understand why, look no further than a series of outrageous actions taken by the agency to systematically undermine the effectiveness of America's international broadcasting. As a former member of the BBG, I think the current board has betrayed its mission to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.

Last month, staff members at Radio Liberty's Moscow bureau were sacked unceremoniously. The move was a crucial blow to the integrity of a free press, and those fired were some of the most respected reporters on the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty staff. Silencing them via the actions of senior agency officials was a tremendous victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin's government and its restriction of free speech. Not surprisingly, a number of widely respected Radio Liberty journalists resigned in protest.

This was not an isolated incident or merely an incompetent slip. Since 2008, the BBG and senior officials of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) have systematically dismantled U.S. government broadcasts to Russia, starting with the elimination of Voice of America's (VOA) operations there. Even though the termination of VOA was followed shortly by Russia's invasion of the Republic of Georgia, no effort was made to restore broadcasts to those who lost their liberty.

The hollowed-out VOA Russian website has been compromised by fake interviews, virulent anti-American postings and the ever-present threat of being blocked. …