Late Monday night, Michael Pack, the CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, rescinded an editorial “firewall” regulation designed to protect the editorial independence of Voice of America and other congressionally funded broadcasters administered by the agency.
Gabe Rottman, director of the Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, made the following statement:
“While Mr. Pack’s decision to repeal this regulation clearly shows his desire to weaken protections for the editorial independence of the congressionally funded broadcasters, it certainly does not get rid of them. The editorial firewall that protects these media outlets from political pressure is statutory, and the journalists working for these broadcasters are protected by the First Amendment. Their success as credible sources of news for millions of people around the world depends upon their editorial independence from political interference, interference which remains illegal and unconstitutional.”
Last week, the Reporters Committee filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a lawsuit filed by five senior USAGM executives who Pack suspended in August. The lawsuit challenges a series of recent moves to interfere with broadcaster operations, including direct editorial interference by Pack aides through investigations of alleged “bias”; Pack’s refusal to process J-1 visa renewals for foreign journalists; the mass removal of the executives themselves; and the sidelining or termination of key editorial personnel.
The Reporters Committee’s brief argues that the credibility of USAGM broadcasters is inseparable from their editorial independence from political pressure.
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.