Government Media Chief Must Stop Undermining Taxpayer-Funded News Organizations
Michael Pack, who heads the US Agency for Global Media, has waged a campaign to damage the credibility of international broadcast news organizations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Washington, D.C.) — PEN America today called for the CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) Michael Pack to halt his ongoing campaign to undermine the credibility and professionalism of major taxpayer-funded international broadcast news organizations that for decades have provided honest reporting to people in countries where independent journalism is suppressed and punished.
PEN America also expressed support for a group of more than two dozen senior officials from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, including Editor-in-Chief Daisy Sindelar, who last week wrote in a letter to Pack that his actions “will compromise the freedom from political influence that for seven decades has characterized Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) as an independent surrogate news organization for countries with no free press of their own.”
In the latest in an ongoing series of unprecedented moves, Pack is seeking to oblige RFE/RL and Radio Free Asia, two news outlets that are nonprofit grantees of USAGM, to sign agreements that cement his control for at least two years, notwithstanding the imminent change in administrations. Pack also serves as chair of the boards of directors of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia, and has populated them with conservative activists and Trump loyalists. Pack and the directors are now seeking to add to the grant agreements binding contractual language to ensure that they cannot be removed for at least the next two years.
“Notwithstanding bipartisan condemnation of Pack’s ongoing campaign to bend these outlets to toe a political line that would violate the law, and undermine the purpose for which they were created, he has continued, in the waning days of the Trump administration to pursue his perverse agenda,” said Thomas O. Melia, Washington director of PEN America. “In a clear demonstration of a conflict of interest, Pack is abusing his position as CEO of the granting agency, while serving as chair of the boards of the grant-seeking news organizations, to compel these two vital news broadcasters to surrender their autonomy. RFE/RL plays a vital role in a region where, in many countries, political influence over the press is the norm; Pack’s shortsighted and self-interested actions put access to objective information at risk for millions of people and undermine the very reasons these institutions were established to begin with. Pack and his minions should stop this destructive course of action before he does lasting damage to the credibility of these outlets traditionally dedicated to independent, professional journalism for people who live in repressive countries.”
In October, PEN America joined 16 other media organizations, led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, in filing an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit to enforce the firewall against editorial interference by political appointees overseeing U.S. international broadcasters.