Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA
Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA

The bodies continue to pile up at the nation’s government-funded but editorially independent news services, raising fears that they will soon become a propaganda arm of the Trump administration.

If that happens, the loss of credibility to a 78-year-old effort to bring straight news to people around the world where it is often in short supply, will be immeasurable.

The respected Voice of America and its affiliates are all part of the US Agency for Global Media, which earlier in June came under the leadership of Donald Trump appointee Michael Pack. Pack is a conservative filmmaker and ally of former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, with whom he has done several film projects.

The global news service, which operates in 47 languages and employs more than 1,100 journalists, was founded in 1942 to tell “America’s story” — but to do it free of government interference, observing the “firewall” that separates news from propaganda and is at the heart of independent journalism.

Senate Democrats sceptical about Pack’s commitment to that mission — and concerned about a still-pending investigation of his business dealings by the attorney-general of the District of Columbia, managed to hold up his confirmation for nearly two years. In April, however, the White House turned up the heat, berating the Voice of America for being pro-China in its coverage of the coronavirus outbreak there. Trump personally entered the fray on May 15, saying “Voice of America is run in a terrible manner. They’re not the Voice of America. They’re the opposite of the Voice of America.” Senate Republicans got the message and pushed through Pack’s confirmation.

By Monday, director Amanda Bennett and deputy director Sandy Sugawara had resigned, and by Wednesday night the heads of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Open Technology Fund, Middle East Broadcasting and Radio Free Asia were gone.

Bannon celebrated by telling The Washington Times, “Now patriots can begin the process of cleaning up the mess [Bennett] leaves behind.” That foretells a horrifying reality about the new agenda at Voice of America and its affiliates. /Boston, June 19

Boston Globe

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