The U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO brought in a conservative author and former government official during Republican administrations to be acting director of Voice of America, replacing a 40-year veteran of the agency.
The removal, first reported by NPR, is the latest in a series of controversial moves by Michael Pack during his six months in office. Elez Biberaj, who has been at VOA since 1980, was installed as acting director in June 2020 after the director and deputy director resigned shortly after Pack was confirmed. Biberaj will now return to his previous post as director of the Eurasia Division.
“I am profoundly grateful to Mr. Pack for the opportunity to serve, and to former [U.S. Agency for Global Media Chief Operations Officer] André Mendes for recommending me for this important assignment,” Biberaj wrote in a message to staff, shared with Government Executive. “The last six months have perhaps been the most challenging period in VOA’s recent history. Regrettably, this period was characterized by an adversarial relationship between VOA and [the U.S. Agency for Global Media].”
He continued: “Some agency officials failed to respect rules, protocols and processes that I considered inviolable, and displayed an indifference to the disruptive impact their actions and decisions had on VOA’s operations and mission. Attempts to trample VOA’s journalistic independence threatened to undermine our hard-won credibility at a time of global democratic backsliding and increased international threats to America’s values and moral leadership.”
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