Taking issue with Clinton's claim of U.S. international broadcasting being 'dysfunctional'

BBG Watch Commentary

Jane DoeOne of our guest commentators who writes under the pen name of Jane Doe because of her association with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) takes issue with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent claim that BBG and U.S. international broadcasting are “dysfunctional.”

“The ‘broken’ part of BBG is on the third floor of the Cohen building. Despite this lack of leadership and support, the everyday employees keep doing their jobs, keep risking their lives, keep bringing information to those who cannot get it anyplace else. They deserve better.”

Jane Doe argues that Mrs. Clinton did not bother to learn what journalists working for U.S. international broadcasting actually do, what kind of repressive measures from authoritarian regimes they have to overcome, and how they try to circumvent Internet censorship. She also writes that some Broadcasting Board of Governors members try to be engaged and helpful but they are ill served by the executive staff of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).

Jane Doe also points out that Mrs. Clinton did not attend a single BBG meeting, even though she was an ex officio board member. (Secretary Clinton did meet twice with other BBG members but under largely ceremonial circumstances, still more often then any of her predecessors. She was represented at BBG meetings by the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy.)

BBG Ill Served by Their Staff

I want to thank BBG Watch for being a rare platform for the truth in the murky and opaque world of the Cohen building cadre. Sometimes you are the only light that brightens our path to always do the right thing for the right reason despite the many and the repetitious obstacles to making progress on the freedom front.

Secretary Clinton, do you have any idea what we actually do in US International Broadcasting (USIB)? Do you know why the countries that are able to, silence our work in every way possible? Do you know that governments in repressive countries world-wide follow our work daily because they know that they cannot ignore our voice? Do you know that the issues we raise in our broadcasts inevitably rise to the top of the regimes’ discussion agendas?

If you don’t think we are fighting the information war and making real gains every day, then you are simply not paying attention. Oh yeah, you never did manage to attend a single board meeting although you are in fact an ex officio member of the BBG. Oh yeah, you have never spent a moment with the leadership of the BBG entities, federal and non federal, to learn about why we do what we do, how we do what we do and how our impact is manifested every day in 100 markets all over the world. We are in the trenches fighting the misinformation war, battle by battle, in real-time.

It is not enough to rely on the BBG Board. Although some of them are genuinely interested in the missions and try desperately to provide support–they are ill served by their staff. IBB Director Lobo cares more about his pictures with you than he does about actually understanding what is needed in USIB. The Deputy IBB Director is more impressed with his meetings with other agencies and kissing up to them that he doesn’t seem able to actually represent his own agency. The “broken” part of BBG is on the third floor of the Cohen building. Despite this lack of leadership and support, the everyday employees keep doing their jobs, keep risking their lives, keep bringing information to those who cannot get it anyplace else. They deserve better.

Once upon a time, the authoritarian regimes could just use a media black out to control big news events from hitting the means team radar. Not as much anymore. Now they are forced to acknowledge events that they know cannot be hidden anymore. There is no hiding from US international broadcasting. So our work has morphed to include “what they said vs. the facts”.

Once upon a time, the Soviet Bloc nations tried jamming our signals to make it painfully hard to hear us. In an asymmetric war this is forcing the burden of cost onto the adversary. As the Internet makes its way into the fabric of Russian, Iranian and Chinese society, censorship via blocking, hacking, 50 cent armies, Ghost net, content filtering, redirection, hijacking and many more tactics for silencing the supply for truth still cannot impede the growth of the demand for the truth.

USIB journalists are leaders in global Internet freedom. We have to be. Our sources are persecuted. Our reporters are detained, intimidated and threatened. Our communications with people inside the firewalls are used as fodder for criminal and civil prosecution. And yet our audiences, our communities, risk their lives every day to give voice to the voiceless. The least we can do is protect them when they speak.

USIB powers the circumvention tools used in the closed societies we report to – Ultrasurf, Psiphon, Tor – anything our audience can use, we try to give them more of. We support anonymity, security, privacy and access for those in need. Yes, the brave people who work with us and rely on us are willing to risk all in the name of free speech, human rights, religious freedom and human dignity. But we do everything possible to reduce their risks.

Mrs. Clinton, some of the most powerful governments in the world treat us as powerful adversaries and a threat to their monopolies on power. Could you take the time to learn that we are worthy allies as well?

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