Aug 31, 2020 - Politics & Policy

VOA journalists say new USAGM CEO is endangering reporters

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A group of veteran Voice of America journalists penned a letter to VOA acting director Elez Biberaj saying that Michael Pack, the new CEO of VOA's parent agency, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), is endangering the livelihoods of contract journalists.

Why it matters: Pack has been the center of controversy ever since he took over the agency in June. The letter alleges that Pack's recent remarks in an interview with the conservative-leaning website The Federalist prove his malicious intent.

In the letter, which was first reported by NPR, VOA journalists say they are concerned that the actions taken by Pack and the interviews he has given "endanger the personal security of VOA reporters at home and abroad, as well as threatening to harm U.S. national security objectives."

  • Pack has in recent weeks refused to renew the work visas for dozens of foreign nationals working as journalists in the U.S.
  • "Michael Pack's actions risk crippling programs and projects for some countries that are considered national security priorities. He has ordered the firing of contract journalists, with no valid reason, by cancelling their visas, forcing them back to home countries where the lives of some of them may be in jeopardy," the letter says.

The big picture: Congressional Democrats and Republicans have been crying foul as evidence mounts that USAGM is trying to systematically undermine the agencies it oversees.

  • Since Pack took over the agency, he's made sweeping changes that have created bipartisan concern.
  • Shortly after his nomination was confirmed, he suddenly dismissed all five heads of the agencies within the USAGM.
  • The USAGM is currently being sued by the Open Technology Fund for roughly $20 million in congressionally appropriated funds that the OTF says Pack and the USAGM are intentionally withholding.

Read the letter.

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