USAGM Watch Commentary
As reported by Paul Farhi in the Washington Post on Tuesday, the Voice of America (VOA) management in the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which is now headed by a former VOA Director, Amanda Bennett, removed a news story that embarrassed Vietnam’s prime minister. The removal of the story by the Voice of America was requested by the Vietnamese Embassy. By contrast, Radio Free Asia (RFA), which is also overseen by USAGM, kept the story on its website and social media pages.
The incident happened last May, but the agency management’s response was issued this week. The Voice of America provided one of the most unbelievable excuses for censorship by claiming that “the language used by the Vietnamese officials in it was ‘objectionable,’ and in violation of the organization’s standards,” as well as FCC standards. Paul Farhi pointed out that, according to Vietnamese speakers, the language was crude but not obscene.
As reported by the Washington Post, the Voice of America management pulled the story three days after Vietnam’s Embassy in Washington contacted VOA’s Acting Director, Yolanda Lopez, and requested its removal. Lopez was part of Amanda Bennett’s “excellent leadership team,” as Bennett called it, when Bennett served as VOA Director from 2016 to 2020. She returned this month as the new USAGM CEO following her nomination by President Biden and confirmation by the U.S. Senate in a 60-36 vote.
One of the many management and programming scandals during her tenure as VOA Director was the shortening of a live interview with a Chinese businessman-whistleblower Guo Wengui, following a protest from communist China’s Embassy in Washington. She denied that her actions were influenced by pressure from China and is believed to have introduced the Voice of America slogan: “A free press matters.”
The Washington Post report quoted one VOA Vietnamese Service employee, who described the censorship as “a betrayal of the organization’s values and mission.” “It’s detrimental to our reputation as a news outlet,” said the staff member, who asked not to be named to avoid retribution. “Our slogan is ‘A free press matters.’ This is so ironic,” the Washington Post quoted the VOA broadcaster.
Radio Free Asia is part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, but, unlike the Voice of America, it is not a fully federal entity.
In contrast to the actions of the VOA management, RFA did not remove the story or the video.
RFA | Radio Free Asia
Vietnamese delegation’s loose lips caught on video during US-ASEAN summit
The video shows high-ranking officials using crude language and boasting about putting Biden in ‘checkmate’
By RFA’s Vietnamese Service
A video that captured crass remarks made by Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and other high-ranking officials prior to their meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken went viral over the weekend and was removed from the U.S. State Department’s YouTube account.
The Vietnamese officials met with Blinken on Friday as part of the two-day U.S.- summit with the 10-member Association for Southeast Asian Nations.
According to a series of tweets about the incident by Southeast Asia analyst Nguyen Phuong Linh, the video shows the Vietnamese delegation laughing that U.S. President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Chinh that he could “not trust Russia.” Chinh also describes the meeting with Biden as “straightforward and fair and that Vietnam isn’t afraid of anyone,” after which the Vietnamese ambassador to the U.S., Nguyen Quoc Dzung, said they “put [Biden] into checkmate.”
Minister of Public Security To Lam is also seen praising the former deputy national security adviser during the Trump administration, Matthew Pottinger, for being young and smart and having a wife who was born in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese officials also refer to a number of U.S. officials without using honorific terms that, in the Vietnamese language, should be used in formal situations.
READ MORE ON RFA
USAGM Watch Commentary
The links listed below to U.S. government, NGO, and independent media reports shed light on USAGM CEO Amanda Bennett’s leadership, managerial, and editorial skills while she served as VOA Director from 2016 to 2020. Some of the reports cover a longer period before and after her tenure as VOA Director but include the tenure of some of her current top aides. She once called them members of her “excellent leadership team.”