Voice of America management came under fire on Tuesday after reassigning a reporter who tried to ask Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a question during his visit to the broadcaster.
Pompeo slammed the taxpayer-funded media outlet in a speech Monday at its headquarters, where he answered questions from VOA executives appointed by President Donald Trump, but not his reporters.
VOA White House reporter Patsy Widakuswara posted a video of herself asking Pompeo as he left the building to talk about the mob attack by Trump supporters last week during ‘a session of Congress that certified the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
Pompeo did not answer or acknowledge the question. He last held a press conference on Nov. 10, when he claimed there would be a “second Trump administration” despite Biden’s election victory, although he has since admitted defeat.
The White House Correspondents Association said Widakuswara was quickly taken out of the way – ahead of Trump’s Tuesday visit to Texas that she was due to cover.
“VOA’s reassignment of Patsy Widakuswara for doing her job, asking questions, is an affront to the very ideals Secretary of State Pompeo spoke of in his speech,” said Zeke Miller, president of the association, in a statement.
The move “harms the interests of all Americans who depend on the free press to learn about their government’s actions and bolsters efforts to restrict press freedom around the world.”
A VOA spokesperson said the outlet “does not comment on internal staff matters.”
Pompeo in his speech accused VOA of “putting America down” until Trump shakes his leadership and urges the broadcaster to say how the United States “is the greatest nation in the history of the world and the greatest nation that civilization has ever known ”.
Through a whistleblower complaint, some staff members opposed Pompeo’s speech, saying it was propaganda for the outgoing administration if there were no questions to the journalists.
Michael Pack, a conservative documentary producer appointed by Trump to oversee VOA, has expressed hope of ending a long-standing firewall against editorial interference in coverage, but the Biden team said the president elected was planning to fire him.
Trump’s White House has publicly criticized VOA for not ringing the administration line and for its coverage of Covid-19 in China.
© 2021 AFP