The head of the US media agency is accused of trying to turn the state-funded news organization into a propaganda outlet for Donald Trump.
A federal judge in the US effectively prevented the head of the agency, which runs the state-funded news organization Voice of America (VOA), from interfering in editorial operations or making personnel decisions.
The verdict against Michael Pack, CEO of the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), comes after he was accused of attempting to turn VOA into a propaganda outlet in support of Donald Trump and the US President’s agenda.
VOA was founded during World War II and has US-funded digital, broadcast and radio stations in several countries. Some of these outlets are branches of VOA while others operate as separate entities.
According to its congress charter, the organization aims to present independent news and information to the international audience.
The lawsuit, filed in October by five dismissed or suspended executives in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, accused Pack and his senior advisors of violating the “statutory firewall” to protect news organizations from political interference.
In her ruling late Friday, Judge Beryl Howell issued injunctions preventing Pack from making recruitment decisions about journalists employed by the agency, communicating directly with them and investigating editorial content or individual journalists.
Pack and his aides “hurt and continue to hurt [journalists’] First Amendment rights because, among other things, they lead to self-censorship and a cooling off of the First Amendment expression, ”Howell wrote in her opinion.
“This current and unexpected damage is enough to prove irreparable damage.”
Purges and denigration
Pack, a Conservative filmmaker and a former associate of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, was reassigned to his position in June.
Since then, he has been accused of meddling in VOA coverage, including asking for an investigation into a July video report he called “pro-Biden” on President-elect Joe Biden.
Pack had also allegedly tried to take the lead at several VOA sister companies, including Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Broadcasting Networks in the Middle East and the Open Technology Fund, which aims to provide secure internet access to people around the world.
Under Pack, foreign journalists who work for VOA and other organizations have also been denied US visas. One step he said was in the interests of national security.
In an August interview with the federal news website, Pack said news organizations operating under USAGM are “great cover for a spy” and “from the start … they invaded”.
Shortly thereafter, 14 high-ranking VOA journalists sent a letter to management in protest of Pack saying his words and actions “endanger the personal safety of VOA reporters at home and abroad and threaten to undermine US national security goals hurt”.