Washington, D.C. — U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEO Michael Pack has launched an investigation into Voice of America (VOA) content that transgressed the VOA Charter, VOA’s Best Practices Guide, VOA’s Journalistic Code, and agency standards and principles, and, further, might have constituted U.S. election interference and a violation of federal law.
The content at issue featured a video that can only be described as an apparent election advertisement for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, which appeared on VOA Urdu’s website as well as on its Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. The video was branded with VOA logos for its duration.
This VOA-branded video promoted a voter mobilization campaign, “Million Muslim Votes,” and highlighted Biden making election promises to the Muslim-American community. Among other individuals, Democratic Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan made appearances in the video.
CEO Pack’s investigation seeks to discern who was responsible for this significant content and editorial breakdown. It also endeavors to determine whether the content violated federal law, including, among other statutes, the Hatch Act, which limits certain political activities of federal employees.
There is significant concern that the VOA content targeted potential voters in the forthcoming U.S. presidential election. To this point, an English-language translation of the revised VOA Urdu content notes, “The number of Muslim voters in several key U.S. states could play a significant role in the upcoming presidential election. In the 2016 election, President Trump won Michigan with less than 11,000 votes. The number of Muslim voters in this state is 1.5 million.”
CEO Pack issued this statement, “USAGM staff members who attempt to influence American elections will be held accountable. Our networks comprise the U.S.’s megaphone to the world, and this invaluable instrument is generously funded by the American people. To safeguard our agency’s reputation and the integrity of our content, I will continue to ensure that violations of journalistic standards and principles are dealt with swiftly and fairly. This investigation – and, indeed, every action that I have taken since starting my tenure last month – has been to repair USAGM so that, once again, U.S. government international broadcasting advances the American national interest.”
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