A senior US official appointed by President Donald Trump has scrapped federal regulations meant to protect the editorial independence of Voice of America and other US-funded media outlets, amid accusations it undermines the journalistic credibility of diffusers.
Michael Pack, CEO of the US Agency for World Media which rolled back the editorial rule on the “firewall” late Monday night, said federal rule was legally flawed, violated the president’s right to conduct foreign policy American and was “unachievable”.
Reporters from U.S.-funded broadcasters accused Pack of trying to turn the service into a spokesperson for Trump, and former executives said they expected legal challenges to the decision.
Federal regulations granting editorial independence were introduced in June by an outgoing board of directors that oversaw US-funded broadcasters. The board of directors was dissolved after Pack was confirmed by the Senate in a party line vote as CEO of the United States World Media Agency (USAGM), the parent agency of Voice. of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and others at the federal level. funded broadcasters.
The regulation, titled “Firewalls and the Highest Standards of Professional Journalism,” had prohibited interference in the editorial work of American media. It prohibited executives or officials outside the newsroom from “attempting to direct, pressure, coerce, threaten, interfere with or otherwise impermissibly influence any of the USAGM networks, including their leadership, officers, their employees or staff, in the exercise of their journalistic activities. and broadcasting functions and activities. “
In announcing his decision on Monday night, Pack argued that the regulation falsely portrayed US-funded media outlets as equivalent to private news agencies and argued that VOA and other broadcasters have a mission to advance the interests of politics. foreign American, unlike the private sector media.
He also said the regulations were impractical and could prevent him from performing his legally mandated duties.
“Not only was this rule based on flawed legal and constitutional reasoning, it made the agency difficult to manage and less able to fulfill its important mission of informing, engaging and connecting people around the world by for freedom and democracy, ”Pack said in his statement.
“No agency run by a CEO, or any other type of manager, has a ‘firewall’ between him and the rest of his agency,” he said.
Press freedom groups, lawmakers on both sides, former agency executives, and former and current U.S.-funded media journalists have criticized Pack’s tenure as CEO, saying that ‘it had tarnished the reputation of broadcasters and hurt America’s image abroad as a champion of a free press.
In a congressional hearing last month, former USAGM officials sharply criticized Pack for posting comments on media homepages, firing the editorial standards manager, sacking heads of all the broadcasters, refusing to renew visas for foreign journalists working at the agency, withhold funding for certain daily operations and say the agency would be “a great place to put a spy”.
“Our reputation for telling the truth has been a vital part of our strength as a nation. Now he is in danger, jeopardizing not only our national values, but our national security as well, ”Ryan Crocker, a retired senior diplomat who served on the former board of governors of the broadcasters funded by the Fund, told lawmakers. United States. congressional hearing.
Republican lawmakers have expressed frustration in particular with Pack’s decision to block around $ 20 million in funding for a nonprofit that provides anti-censorship technology to people in repressive corporations including Belarus, China. and Iran. They said the move cut democracy activists in Hong Kong and elsewhere at a time when they needed it.
The US Global Media Agency, with a budget of around $ 800 million, oversees broadcasters that reach around 350 million people per week in 62 languages.