We sent a letter today to the members of the American Congress: Senators Chuck Shumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressmen Michael Grimm, Peter King, Carolyn Maloney, Eliot Engel, Chris Gibson, Joseph Crowley, Tim Bishop, Jerrold Nadler, Paul Tonko, Gregory Meeks.
Dear member of the American Congress,
On behalf of RUSA LGBT, Russian-Speaking American Association, I am writing to you to express our concerns about the proposed restructuring at Voice of America. Our group consists of several hundred naturalized American citizens, living in New York and constituting part of your constituency, who immigrated from the former Soviet Union and we recently welcomed many gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender individuals from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, who fled these countries due to violence and state persecution. Our members know about censorship and the lack of freedom of the press from their own painful experience, and sought the freedom of speech and expression in America. This is why we care deeply about this issue and believe that the Royce-Engel bill, HR 4490 that proposes to change the charter of Voice of America is a big mistake. VOA current charter requires them “to be accurate, objective, and comprehensive”, and provides a forum for open debate, as well as an opportunity to question newsmakers and U.S. officials (http://www.insidevoa.com/info/voa-charter/2322.html
). The proposed bill will require programming that “is consistent with and promotes the broad foreign policies of the United States.” Quarterly meetings would be required with the State Department undersecretary charged with directing public diplomacy, as pointed out by the recent WP editorial. In essence, this will make VOA a mouthpiece of propaganda similar to what Russia Today is. No one in the US pays any attention to what Russia Today reports, no respectable journalist would risk their career and work for RT because it is a disgrace for journalism. We do not want VOA to lose credibility and to become a laughing stock abroad. That would be truly a waste of taxpayers money, as no one will be taking VOA seriously. As WP editorial points out, “VOA distinguishes itself from state services like Russia Today by embodying the democratic values of independent media and open debate.” The best weapon against dictatorships and their propaganda machines is to demonstrate the ideals of the democratic society by example. Please do not follow the suit of Kremlin and do not destroy objective journalism at Voice of America.
Co-President of RUSA LGBT