The taxpayer-funded agency’s shakeups have raised concerns that CEO Michael Pack intends to turn the agency into a political arm of the administration, inviting both Democratic lawmakers and ex-USAGM members of the board of directors to appeal to him for the respect of the independence of his new organizations and to recognize his importance in the promotion of democracy abroad.
Jamie Mouche, ousted from the head of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFERL) on Friday, warned against the United States falling behind authoritarian countries in the information space and called for “clear and consistent, to leadership, funding and support ”to organizing news.
In what a former official described as a “Wednesday night massacre,” the Middle East heads of Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund were all ousted, from multiple sources told CNN, and their respective boards of directors have been terminated.
In a press release Thursday, USAGM described it as “Pack (to carry out a series of large and long overdue measures to keep assurances from restructuring the agency, in full compliance with the law.”
The Democratic chairs of the House of the Foreign Affairs Commission and the House Appropriations Committee wrote in a letter to Pack Friday that they were “outraged” at Wednesday’s actions.
“Now more than ever, it is essential that the USAGM staff are activated and empowered to do this work of criticism and to continue the long-standing practice of not getting tangled in politics, and most importantly that they should not change their practice to propaganda or mislead the public with the Trumpet Administration blunt, “wrote council representatives Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey of New York.
They called Pack in turn by June 29 “all documents concerning him, concerning or concerning the performances, points of view, and / or a potential for termination or replacement of Alberto Fernandez, Jamie à la Mouche, de la Baie de Fang, and Libby Liu “- the people who were ousted on Wednesday – dates back to the very beginning of the Trump presidency.
Republic Michael McCaul, a senior Republican on the House of the Foreign Affairs Commission, said Friday that he was concerned about the moves and Pack failed to consult Congress.
“I hope the CEO of the Pack will find the time very soon to explain to me and my colleagues at the House of the Foreign Affairs Commission his reasons for making these decisions,” the Texas Republican, declared. He and GOP Father Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee also said they were “troubled” by the kidnapping of another senior official at the Open Technology Fund “and are worried about the organization’s future. ”
“We have been impressed with the efforts of President Laura Cunningham and her team, and look forward to CEO of the Pack on how he plans to continue the essential mission of OTF during this transition period, Republican lawmakers wrote in a statement on Friday.
In opening remarks at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee audience Thursday, rank member Father Bob Menendez – a strong contender for the Bid Package – warned against undermining the agency’s credibility.
“Once the credibility is gone, no one will ever trust a report from Radio Free Europe, Radio Marti, or trust the tools of the Open Technology Fund,” the New Jersey Democrat said.
“Our greatest weapon is our adherence to the truth”
In a letter sent Friday, four former USAGM board members, including two former ambassadors, urged him to “protect” “US asset critic”, he inherited “respecting the firewall, the maintaining qualified advice and management, and pursuing the legacy supporter. ”
“These entities are one of the pillars of the Organization of Soft Power” States. Their mission has perhaps never been more important than now, when the United States is engaged in an information space battle with anti-democratic regimes that are actively interfering in US domestic policy, the debate over public health, and US presidential elections, ”Léon Aron, former Amb. Ryan Crocker, Michael Kempner, and former Amb. Karen Kornbluh has written.
“Their independence is essential to their effectiveness in demonstrating the power of press freedom and in obtaining reliable information from those in repressive regimes who cannot access this information,” they wrote.
RFERL Mouche, speaking to his withdrawal for the first time on Friday, said he was “disappointed to leave … just as our reforms have started to have an impact, but very proud. “
“The brave men and women of @RFERL need clear and consistent leadership, funding and support when they come under pressure. With that, they will get results no less important than that of their predecessors, which helped bring freedom to millions of people, “Fly said. For much of the past decade, they have been deprived of the fact that, due to attempts to interfere in their DC work, political struggles over @USAGMgov’s structure and strategic goals of neglect. ”
“I sincerely hope that my departure is not another sign of the same,” La Mouche said.
CNN Brian Stelter, Jim Acosta and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.