Readers React: Voice of America produces journalism. To suggest it’s a propaganda arm is outrageous

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To the editor: The L.A. Times reported that the government-owned news service Voice of America, or VOA, faces difficulties because “the same chief executive who oversees the network also runs American networks that have long been viewed as producing pro-democracy propaganda” — including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

RFE/RL does not produce propaganda — though, like most U.S. media, it believes democracy is superior to dictatorship. It is governed by the same standards of journalistic professionalism as VOA and other U.S. international media.

While VOA’s job is to tell America’s story abroad, the mission of RFE/RL, which is based in Prague, is to create a free local press in nations where independent media do not exist or are still developing. RFE/RL provides accurate local news to a 20-nation region that includes the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


RFE/RL’s reliable news coverage in 25 languages attracts a weekly audience of 31 million people, despite the efforts of some regimes to block it on the internet, jam its broadcasts and intimidate citizens who turn to it for accurate information. Americans should be proud of RFE/RL’s work.

Thomas Kent, New York

The writer was president and chief executive of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty through September of this year.


To the editor: The Dec. 14 article about potential transition challenges at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) paints a misleading picture of our work.

USAGM is an independent U.S. government agency that oversees five media networks — the Voice of America, Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks — each of which provides credible, objective and accurate reporting.


The credibility of our journalism is paramount to our mission — to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. Collectively, these networks employ more than 3,500 journalists, many of whom risk their lives and livelihoods to report in some of the world’s more media-repressive environments.

Our journalism is required by law to be “conducted in accordance with the highest professional standards of broadcast journalism,” which by definition does not allow propaganda. Any violation of these standards at all five USAGM networks is met with direct and rigorous attention.

Breaches in reporting ethics and standards cannot and should not be attributed to an administration change. Nor should the mistakes of a few be used to discredit the award-winning work of thousands of fearless USAGM journalists around the globe.

John F. Lansing, Washington

The writer is chief executive and director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

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