BBG Watch News Commentary
According to BBG Watch sources, executives in charge of U.S. international broadcasting have been trying to keep secret the fake Voice of America (VOA) interview with a Russian opposition leader from members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) who have the ultimate responsibility over VOA and other U.S. government-funded news operations.
Sources told us that at least some BBG members learned about the fake VOA interview with Russian whistleblower lawyer, blogger and opposition leader Alexei Navalny by reading about it on the BBG Watch website this morning.
Managers tried to keep the news of the fake interview, which was posted on the VOA Russian Service website, from appearing on the main VOA English-language news website.
Sources told BBG Watch that a new VOA Russian contractor, one of many hired after experienced VOA journalists were let go, claimed to have interviewed Navalny via e-mail. According to contacts in the VOA Russian Service, some veteran staffers had their doubts about the authenticity of the interview because “it was very provocative, bashing opposition leaders, and stylistically it didn’t Â remind them of Navalny. But current Russian Service ‘managers’ rushed to publish this material without any second thoughts (if they have any at all),” one BBG Watch source told us.
The VOA Russian website published the fake interview on January 31 and later removed it after Alexei Navalny said the interview was bogus. The VOA Russian website then published an apology to Navalny and to its online visitors. But since all of the VOA content on this incident was in Russian, the Broadcasting Board of Governors members were unlikely to learn about it from VOA websites. BBG Watch reported that VOA websites have been compromised before most likely by agents of the Russian secret police, the FSB.
The news about the incident was published in English by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti “Navalny says VOA interview fake.”
BBG Watch blamed the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) management team, now led by new IBB Director Richard Lobo, for putting in place policies of Internet-only program delivery that have resulted in the Voice of America publishing a fake interview, “Broadcasting Board of Governorâ€™s policies blamed for fake Voice.” It is not clear when Richard Lobo, viewed as an absent manager, learned about the fake VOA interview with Navalny.
It is incredible that the management team would try to keep this news secret from the Broadcasting Board of Governors and that the Voice of America English news website would fail to report on the greatest VOA journalistic blunder in recent history, one former VOA journalist told BBG Watch. “Those in charge of the BBG, IBB, and VOA are becoming more and more like the editors of the communist Soviet newspaper Pravda. They seem to think that if you keep something secret and don’t report it, it will not exist,” a veteran VOA reporter said.
It is indeed incredible that members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors had to learn about the fake Voice of America interview not from the VOA English website or from their IBB management team but from the independent BBG employee website BBG Watch and from the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. According to critics of the BBG, the same IBB/BBG management team has proposed a major reorganization of the Broadcasting Board of Governors which would even further limit transparency, accountability, and public scrutiny.