Broadcasting Board of Governors member lashes out against domestic critics, calling them 'cowards'


BBG Watch Commentary
We have just heard that the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors Walter Isaacson is stepping down from his post at the BBG. He is not responsible for any calls for censorship against BBG Watch and is regarded as a supporter of transparency. Our sources report, however, that the same cannot be said about at least one other member of the BBG. Here is what our sources, which want to remain anonymous, tell us.
This could be a great story for the Kremlin’s external propaganda television channel Russia Today (RT), which is available in English on some U.S. cable systems and has recently hired WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to help Mr. Putin and co. fight the information war, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. is losing.
It seems that rather than worrying about how to counter Mr. Putin’s propaganda, at least one member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a federal agency in charge of promoting democracy and free speech abroad through U.S. government-funded international broadcasters like the Voice of America (VOA), is also deeply concerned about Americas who dare to criticize BBG officials for mismanagement and incompetence in carrying out the information war.
BBG Watch sources confirmed that a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors lashed out in private against domestic U.S. critics of BBG government officials, calling these critics “cowards” for using anonymous inside sources and taking advantage of the Internet and social media to anonymously post information and comments.
The BBG’s stated mission is “to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”
The BBG website states that U.S. international broadcasting serves “as a trustworthy source of news and as an example of a free, professional press in countries that lack independent media.” It also announces that “BBG broadcasters engage with audiences and promote dialogue through interactive programs and social networking.”
What could be only described as a glaring example of hypocrisy in public diplomacy, the same U.S. government official who calls his critics “cowards” then publicly rejoices when critics in Cuba, China, and Russia use anonymous new media to expose human rights violations and organize against their authoritarian regimes. The BBG member referred as “cowards” to American citizens who anonymously questioned the judgement of BBG executives involved with the unsuccessful BBG push in Congress to end VOA radio and TV broadcasts to China. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress put a stop to the BBG China plan.
This and other BBG members have been publicly calling on Congress to give the agency more money to fight Internet censorship in China and Cuba so that Chinese and Cuban citizens can view Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and Radio/TV Marti websites and post anonymous news and comments. Congress gave the BBG $10 million for this purpose.
But in private, one BBG member urged his colleagues to do something to counter anonymous U.S. domestic criticism of BBG executives on the independent BBG Watch website run by current and former BBG employees and other volunteers, most of whom prefer to remain anonymous.
Hypocrisy and bad public diplomacy setting a terrible example for pro-democracy and free speech activists abroad — BBG Watch sources say that a presidentially-appointed member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors is guilty on all counts.
This kind of behavior also confirms that BBG employees are absolutely right in trying to hide their identity while exposing poor judgement and mismanagement on the part of top level BBG officials. They have good reasons to fear the anger of this particular BBG member and the anger of BBG executives who no doubt urged this presidential appointee to take some kind of action to counter their critics, some of whom are their own employees who rate them in official surveys as the worst leaders and managers in the entire federal government.
We’re happy to report, however, that there may be still after all some First Amendment protection of free speech at the BBG, although we would not advise the internal critics to reveal their identities just yet. Our sources tell us that other members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, including BBG Chairman Walter Isaacson, who is stepping down from his post, and senior Republican member Victor Ashe, apparently ignored the call for action from the BBG member who was deeply offended by BBG Watch news commentaries.
We are told that Isaacson and Ashe have tried to make the BBG more transparent but have encountered strong resistance from the BBG and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) senior staff and from a few of their colleagues on the Board.
As we pointed out in our earlier commentary,  ‘Old white guys’ meet ‘cute young intern’ and First Amendment at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that anonymous free speech is protected and allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority,” the U.S. Supreme Court said.
China, Cuba, Russia … a Broadcasting Board of Governors member … U.S. Supreme Court. We stick with the last option.


1 comment

  1. Avatar
    jan palach 5 February, 2012 at 11:54 Reply

    An unnamed member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors has called out contributors to this website as cowards, which at first look is correct, and I have thought the same of myself since my last post.
    I wish I were as brave as | was in my youth, when I came to RFE/RL. Then I, and my colleagues left our respective homelands to stand up to terror and totalitarianism. Now I find myself unwilling to speak out against what I perceive as mismanagement and misinformation occurring at the a place whose stated mission of providing responsible discussion and open debate.
    I do not feel that I can speak my mind without reprisal. I feel that I am once again living under totalitarian rule, I fear that there will soon be informers reporting back to our senior managers, and the blackbird will start coming to people’s desks and escorting them out of the building to the gulag of unemployment.
    Unfortunately for me, I have much more to lose these days, and I choose to keep my head down, only writing on this site in the hopes that my posts will be read and those in charge will remember the reason we are here and refocus on doing what is best for the Radio, and not just just what is good for themselves. So yes, to my mind I am a coward, and I sometimes feel ashamed.
    As for the unamed Governor’s word, for him to call me, and other contributors to this site cowards is an outrage.
    I invite him/her to come to Prague and call me and my colleagues cowards to our faces. Explain to us how we are the cowards. We, who have left our homelands, sometimes with no hope of returning. We, who have left our famililes in peril. We, who have risked our lives all for the one goal of reporting the truth about what is happening.
    Better yet, why not tell the family of slain VOA journalist Mukarram Khan Atif, who made the ultimate sacrifice in supporting the mission of U.S. International Broadcasting.
    Or maybe he/she can apologize, read whatever grievances we collectively may have, work to fix those the Board can, and explain the reasons why others cannot be fixed. This would be significanlty more productive than insulting us.

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