Trump’s appointee ousts VOA’s director before Biden takes office

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s reappointment has reassigned the acting director of Voice of America to oversee U.S.-funded broadcasters to give way to a political partisan a few weeks before the Biden administration takes office.

Michael Pack, chief executive of the U.S. Global Media Agency, the parent company of the VOA and other international press outlets, announced Wednesday that he had filled the voice of America’s leading career journalist as director instead of Robert Reilly, a conservative commentator. Under the administration of George W. Bush, the Voice of America.

The appointment of VOA’s acting director, Elez Biberaj, is the latest step by Pack, a conservative filmmaker who worked with Steve Bannon, a former advisor to Trump, to position partisan loyalists in high office before President-elect Joe Biden enters Belarus. House in January.

Dr. Elez Biberaj, former Acting Director of the Voice of America.VOA

New York Democrat Eliot Engel, the outgoing chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, condemned Packet for naming the new VOA just weeks before the new administration took office.

“Michael Pack should be packing his office, not running U.S. broadcasting units with right-wing ideologues and big men,” Engel said in a statement.

The next administration is expected to replace Pack if Biden takes the oath on Jan. 20, but the proposed legislation could make it harder to replace Reilly.

The Defense Expenditure Bill passed by the House requires that the CEO of the U.S. Global Media Agency obtain approval from an advisory board before appointing new directors for VOA, Radio Free Asia, and other federally funded media. The proposed language was designed to control the power of the CEO, and lawmakers have come in response to Pack’s actions since he took control in June.

Incoming VOA director Reilly, author of books like “Make Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Changes Everything,” raises concerns among VOA journalists that it could create a partisan political view in the broadcaster’s coverage. Reilly’s book, “Closing the Muslim Mind,” was called ill-informed “war literature,” by Yale University professor of theology, Frank Griffel, who wrote that Reilly tried to tell the reader “why we think it’s right” and that our enemies are on the wrong track. “

In a statement announcing Reilly’s appointment, Pack said, “Bob’s inimitable experience and proven leadership as a public and private citizen will be of great benefit to the entire agency.” According to Pack, Reilly “has dedicated his career to advancing national interest and advancing American foreign policy – and he has indeed succeeded.”

“I’ve always been adamant about the VOA’s mission to tell America’s history to the world,” Reilly said in the same USAGM statement. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to serve VOA again.”

The outgoing VOA director, Biberaj, who has worked for Voice of America for 40 years, wrote to employees, telling them of his relocation, referring to threats to editorial independence during Pack’s tenure at the U.S. global media agency.

“The last six months have been perhaps the most challenging period in VOA’s recent history,” Biberaj wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, this period was marked by an adversarial relationship between the VOA and the USAGM. Some agency officials did not follow the rules, protocols, and processes that I considered inviolable, and were indifferent to the disruptive impact of their actions and decisions on the VOA’s operations and mission. opposite. . “

He added: “Attempts to trample the VOA’s journalistic independence are jeopardizing our hard-won credibility at a time of global democratic decline and heightened international threats to American values ​​and moral leadership.”

Legislators from both sides of the corridor and freedom of the press have blown up Packet after his actions have taken power since he took power in June, accusing him of undermining the broadcasters ’editorial independence and opposing congressional authority.

A federal judge last month ordered Packet to stop interfering in the press rooms of the VOA and other press outlets, finding that he had jeopardized journalists ’rights to first amend his office for investigation.

Last week, a U.S. custody agency, the U.S. Special Advisory Office, said Pack and his deputies were “significantly likely to be guilty.”

The U.S. Global Media Agency did not respond to the comments.