With indications that Pack does not allow visa extension for international VOA journalists in the U.S., there are dozens of journalists who could be retaliated if forced to return to their home countries.
“People who work for companies like VOA or RFA are putting their lives at risk by reporting in horrible places. In some cases, they have been able to work with the state to get special visas for their work,” said one with the possible decision . If these journalists are sent home, “without exaggeration, they could easily face death, detention, and definitely harassment if they report.”
There is a journalist at VOA from China whose visa expires in late July, two sources said, which raises concerns about retaliation by the Chinese authorities when the journalist is forced to leave the United States.
“I’m just a little amazed at all of this,” said the source. “The United States could have the blood of hard-working journalists in their hands if they do.”
The VOA Charter states that it will present “accurate, objective and comprehensive” news. It is also said to introduce America, US politics and “responsible discussions and opinions on this policy”. VOA was legally signed in 1976, while USAGM was founded in the late 1990s as a governing body for five US broadcasting networks. All networks are independent of the US government, although they are funded by the government.
Trump’s White House has long been frustrated with VOA’s reporting, which they see as overly critical of Trump. Trump’s external allies like Steve Bannon, who is closely associated with Pack, scolded the organization. Earlier this year, the White House publicized its concerns and said in an online post that VOA “speaks too often for America’s opponents – not its citizens.” The post went to VOA – funded from US tax dollars – to compare the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the US with the death toll in China.
These moves are due to the Trump administration lambasting the Chinese government’s control over Chinese media companies and taking action in recent months to require Chinese branches in the U.S. to identify themselves as foreign missions.
“While the Chinese Communist Party has always controlled state news agencies, their control has tightened,” said David Stilwell, senior official at the State Department for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. “You can’t just allow this stuff.”
Radio Free Asia’s top editor, Bay Fang, who was fired on Wednesday, was an experienced and respected journalist. Her fall is the latest in a series of high-profile falls and resignations by USAGM employees since Pack took the lead.
Fang’s dismissal is somewhat inexplicable for current and former RFA employees. They found that the organization’s journalists, under their leadership, told the story that thousands of Uighurs were detained in Xinjiang Province, China. The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized the Chinese government for its gross human rights violations in Xinjiang. However, some former employees believe that Fang’s fall is in line with Pack’s efforts to make far-reaching changes and fill the shows with people who are in line with President Trump, though no one has been named to replace them.
“By ordering Bay Fang’s dismissal, Michael Pack somehow managed to violate Radio Free Asia’s important mission while helping authoritarian regimes in countries like China and North Korea,” said Steve Capus, a former senior advisor to USAGM who was released by Pack. “Bay is the kind of leader you want to help run an organization like Radio Free Asia because it serves millions of people around the world who are hungry for accurate, trustworthy, and important news and information.”
Pack “doesn’t want people nearby to continue using the platform as a PR tool for the Trump administration,” said another source familiar with the fall.
Fang is known to have a close relationship with Matthew Pottinger, who is the Deputy National Security Advisor. Pottinger is said to have raised private objections to Pack’s shots. However, it is unclear whether the Trump administration officials will be willing to question Pack’s decisions.
USAGM, the State Department and the NSC did not respond to a request for comment.