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USAGM Says Robert Reilly to Return as VOA Director


FILE - The facade of the Voice of America building is seen in Washington, June 15, 2020.

The U.S. Agency for Global Media has named writer and diplomat Robert Reilly as the new director of Voice of America, a position he held from 2001 to 2002.

In an email to agency staff Wednesday, USAGM CEO Michael Pack said Reilly’s VOA experience and leadership will be a benefit to the agency.

“Bob has dedicated his career to – and, indeed, succeeded in – promoting the national interest and advancing U.S. foreign policy,” Pack wrote.

Reilly was quoted in the email saying, “I have always been a firm adherent of VOA’s mission of telling America’s story to the world.”

Reilly is director of the Westminster Institute, a research organization set up in 2009 to promote freedom with a focus on threats from extremist ideology.

He has authored several books including “America on Trial,” published earlier this year; “Making Gay Ok: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything,” in 2015; and “The Closing of the Muslim Mind,” in 2011.

VOA contacted Reilly by phone Wednesday but he said he was unable to take the call.

Acting VOA Director Elez Biberaj announced in an email to staff late Tuesday that he would be returning to his position as director of VOA’s Eurasia division after the new director arrives.

Biberaj suggested the last six months have been the most challenging period in VOA’s recent history. He wrote that “some agency officials failed to respect rules, protocols and processes that I considered inviolable.” He also said, without elaborating, that “attempts to trample VOA’s journalistic independence threatened to undermine our hard-won credibility.”

Since Pack’s appointment to the USAGM in June, network heads have been fired or resigned, Pack has stopped approving visa renewals for the agency’s foreign journalists, and his political appointees have conducted internal investigations of reporters and editors.

Last month a federal judge ruled that some of Pack’s moves as CEO violated the First Amendment rights of the agency’s journalists. The judge ordered Pack to stop interfering in VOA’s news coverage and conducting editorial investigations. However, Pack retains the authority to select a new VOA director.

President Donald Trump nominated Pack more than two years ago to become CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe, and other U.S.-funded international broadcasters.

The three-year appointment gives the CEO broad powers to hire and fire the heads of the networks. However, pending legislation in Congress could curtail those powers and require the CEO to seek the approval of a presidentially appointed bipartisan advisory board.

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