THE NEUTRAL ZONE

The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) is a federal office that oversees a collection of news agencies, most famously Voice of America  whose job it is to “inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.” Under the umbrella of the USAGM are several news organizations that receive funding from the American government, yet operate independently.

Following his confirmation as head of the agency, Michael Pack fired the heads of four organizations overseen by the USAGM in what’s being called the “Wednesday night massacre.” Two journalists at Voice of America, Amanda Bennett and Sandra Sugawara, resigned on June 15, ahead of the firings, in protest of Pack’s confirmation.

Critics of Pack’s appointment fear that he will “compromise the independence of the congressionally funded broadcast networks and impose partisan senior leadership.” The dismissals were criticized by officials on both sides of the aisle, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), noted conservative national security media analyst David Reaboi, as well as former diplomats as part an effort to turn the news organizations under the United States Agency for Global Media into partisan outlets. Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) sent a letter to Pack “expressing outrage and demanding documents related to the firing of senior officials and disbanding of advisory board.” They added that they expect Pak “not to put political priorities over your responsibility to advance the USAGM’s core mission.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Trump’s New Foreign Broadcasting CEO Fires News Chiefs, Raising Fears Of Meddling – NPR – 6/18/2020
Pack swiftly sidelined most of the agency’s senior leadership by stripping them of their authority. He also fired the chiefs of the government-sponsored broadcast networks for foreign audiences that his agency oversees, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Radio Free Asia; Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which oversees Radio and Television Martí; and Middle East Broadcasting Networks, which runs Alhurra and Radio Sawa.

Trump administration purges news execs from U.S. agency meant to counter disinformation, leaving staff fearing more to come – CBS News – 6/18/2020
The overnight purge of top news organization officials at the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) has raised concern among its federal government employees and reporters that their jobs, immigration status, and editorial independence may soon be at risk following the arrival of new CEO Michael Pack. 

Trump and Steve Bannon want to turn a US-funded global media network into Breitbart 2.0 – Vox – 6/18/2020
Within hours of introducing himself to employees, he’d purged four top officials — and critics are calling it a blatant effort to turn America’s state-run news organizations into Trump-friendly propaganda outlets.

Controversial broadcasting agency head says ‘fully committed’ to independent reporting – Fox News – 6/19/2020
The message from Pack, a Trump appointee with ties to the president’s former strategist Steve Bannon, came as Democrats in Congress have made their suspicion of him very clear, and soon after Pack fired three of the agency’s network heads. The director and the deputy director of VOA also resigned this week. Pack struck a conciliatory tone in the letter to his staff Thursday.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Elizabeth Warren on Twitter, 6/18/2020: Steve Bannon’s buddy Michael Pack should understand that Voice of America’s programming is supposed to support freedom and democracy around the world, not act as Donald Trump’s Ministry of Propaganda. That’s what Fox News is for. This is corruption.

Walter Shaub on Twitter, 6/19/2020: It’s embarrassing to see a federal news outlet destroy public confidence in its objectivity by issuing a bizarre press release that reads like something written by Kim Jong Un’s press office. But it’s what you’d expect now that Trump has installed Bannon associate Michael Pack.

Greta Van Susteren on Twitter, 6/18/2020: I would not call this a ‘massacre’ as the new head had every right to do this and it was expected that a new person in newly reorganized USGMA would get new people; all corps do this when get new leaders; ‘massacre’ greatly overstates it

David Reaboi on Twitter, 6/18/2020: Last night, lots of conservatives–myself included–were expressing anger about Michael Pack’s insane firing of @AlbertoMiguelF5 at Al Hurra. Here’s a roundup.

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