Panelists say

Voice of America and other agencies would be in danger in a second Trump administration

Voice of America and other agencies would be in danger in a second Trump administration

Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and other government-funded news organizations claim a proud tradition of journalism free of political interference, but leaders are worried that status would change under a new Trump administration.

As cause for concern, they cite past actions by conservative Trump appointees at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the umbrella agency for Voice of America, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Open Technology Fund.

Wholesale firings by USAGM CEO Michael Pack, as a White House blog called Voice of America a tool of the Chinese Communist Party, were central to a panel discussion at the National  Press Club on Wednesday.

Libby Liu, who lost her position as president of Radio Free Asia, cited the special vulnerability of foreign reporters whose visas can be revoked or allowed to lapse, ending their jobs and sending them home, in many cases  to face persecution. Liu now works at Whistleblower Aid, which represents workers who report bad practices.

"In order to be effective," Liu said, "news organizations  must be able to operate at the highest journalistic level and have independence." The Trump administration, she said, "saw the organizations, these media companies ... as a tool, in the same way an authoritarian thinks media is a tool."

Kate Wright, a media scholar at  the University  of Edinburgh in Scotland, who has studied politicization of news in seven countries, found a pattern in what happens after a political takeover of independent public media. First, the government installs loyalists to run the agencies. Next, resources -- funding, personnel -- begin to shrink. Then nervous  journalists start reporting and writing more carefully to avoid offending their bosses.  

"Then you start to get this change in media discourse," Wright said. "Government officials or their allies start to talk about the network and reframe really what its purpose is, and what the relationship to the executive is. ... It's very typical to  accuse journalists of being politically biased in a way that only comes from one perspective."

David Seide, a lawyer with  the Government Accountability Project, has represented about 30 Voice of America employee-whistleblowers. He said Pack's efforts to root out employees he considered biased against the Trump administration were illegal employment practices.

He said Trump and his advisers "intend to pick up where they left off."

Seide's evidence: a Heritage Foundation report called Project 2025 in which leading conservatives outline a way to remake the federal government to put the president more fully in control.
Representatives of the Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.-National Press Club