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For VOA, Obama Nominates Banker & Bundler Kempner for BBG, Censors

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 8 -- With the US Broadcasting Board of Governors still not having addressed censorship bids by the Voice of America it oversees, President Obama today nominated to the BBG Michael W. Kempner, a founder of New Jersey's ConnectOne Bancorp and a bundler of campaign contributions.

   We ask again, why does the US government need a propaganda network, and why turn it loose inside the US? And why would its BBG, after first granting Freedom of Information Act access and fee waivers then try to reverse all this after the documents released proved embarrassing?

  After that, BBG's FOIA Officer Andrew Krog suspended processing in the October 2013 government "funding lapse;" then Appeals Access Committee chair Marie Lennon denied access to any documents about taxpayer funded BBG programming in Sudan and Afghanistan (see below.)

 Back on July 2, 2013, Inner City Press published a short critique of Voice of America and its Broadcasting Board of Governors, here.

  In the three days that followed, mail poured in providing yet more detailed accounts of BBG and Voice of America incompetence and assaults on the principles they supposedly uphold.

  The union that represents workers there, AFGE Local 1812, has written that

poor morale was made markedly worse by a decision in 2010 to re-appoint the present newsroom director [Sonja Pace]. A correspondent since the 1980’s, she had been reassigned from the position of news chief more than a decade earlier. Fast forward to 2010: An audio recording of an open meeting in VOA’s newsroom shows that strong protests against the reappointment of the former news director were dismissed by VOA's Executive Editor [Steve Redisch] a former CNN employee. In the recording, the Executive Editor rejected staff concerns, saying 'you’re responsible for your own morale.' Though he has known of the morale crisis in VOA’s Central News Division created by the 2010 decision, current VOA director David Ensor has allowed this situation to continue.”

  Inner City Press in 2012 had its own experience of these three individuals. VOA's Executive Editor Steve Redisch wrote to the UN asking that Inner City Press' accreditation be “reviewed.”

  The only communication Inner City Press had received from VOA or BBG in Washington prior to this was from Sonja Pace, that “regarding VOA’s Charter and Code, we absolutely stand by those mandates and guidelines, without exception.”

  Apparently Voice of America's principles don't include the First Amendment. Subsequent inquiring under the Freedom of Information Act found David Ensor involved in the decision to try to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. Ensor served the US State Department in Afghanistan and perhaps re-formed his view of press freedom there.

  In mid 2013, the Obama administration nominated former Afghanistan envoy Ryan Crocker to join the then half-empty Broadcasting Board of Governors, along with John Kerry, while claiming that the output under the BBG is entirely independent from the US government. This is not credible.

  The Colombia Journalism Review, with its own conflicts, has made this point, and BBG has belatedly responded. Will any of this finally bring accountability? Watch this site.

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