Coronavirus coverage and preparations the focus of USAGM Board meeting
The United States Agency for Global Media’s (USAGM) Board of Governors met today at its Washington, D.C. headquarters. The Board reviewed how USAGM and its networks were preparing their workforces for the impact of COVID-19 while keeping their audiences informed about the global pandemic.
“The health and safety of USAGM, including its networks, grantees and staff, is the Board’s top priority,” said Chairman Kenneth Weinstein at the opening of the meeting.
“This story has drawn millions of people to our broadcast properties in countries that are denied full and open media. We’ve been there to provide that essential news and information without disruption,” said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Grant Turner.
CEO Turner added, “While providing our audience with top-notch reporting on the spreading disease, we’ve also dealt with the coronavirus as a complex, high-risk organization with lots of connections across the globe, lots of international travel and many factors that put the organization at risk. I join the Chairman and Governors in thanking our journalists, staff, contractors, grantees for their unwavering dedication.”
Voice of America (VOA) Director Amanda Bennett and Radio Free Asia (RFA) President Bay Fang presented on how their networks covered the emergence of the virus outbreak in China and its impact in the region. As a result of their reliable and accurate reporting, VOA and RFA saw substantial growth online and on their social media platforms.
In addition, RFA President Fang and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) President Jamie Fly presented “Locked Up in China,” a collaborative project that their networks jointly developed. The new project provides extensive coverage of China’s mass internment of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic minorities. In addition, RFE/RL showcased “Bags of Cash in Kyrgyzstan,” a recent and groundbreaking Kyrgyz Service’s investigative report, which has received notable attention from audiences throughout Central Asia.
Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) President Alberto Fernandez talked about the network’s coverage of Iran’s growing influence in Lebanon and Iraq.
And for the first time, the Open Technology Fund (OTF), which became a grantee of USAGM in October 2019, presented to the Board. CEO Libby Liu offered research and data on the trends in internet shutdowns as a tool of censorship in restrictive counties such as Iran, Sudan and Chad.
In addition to the growing challenges of reporting on the COVID-19 epidemic, USAGM journalists face risks every day in the course of their work. Chairman Weinstein welcomed the release of RFE/RL Ukrainian Service contributors Stanislav Aseyev and Oleh Halaziuk, and condemned the continued detainment of three USAGM journalists in Vietnam. He also recognized the 35th anniversary of Office of Cuba Broadcasting’s Radio Marti, which has served as a vital communications link to the Cuban people during economic, cultural and political hardships as well as during a period of dynamic changes in U.S.-Cuba relations.
“We were so grateful to hear of the release of Aseyev and Halaziuk and wish them a complete healing from their ordeal,” Chairman Weinstein said. “We look forward to the time when we can welcome home our colleagues in Vietnam, too.”