New Chief at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Is a Hopeful Sign for Much-Needed Leadership Change

COMMENTARY Global Politics

New Chief at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Is a Hopeful Sign for Much-Needed Leadership Change

Jul 19th, 2019 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Helle C. Dale

Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy

Her current work focuses on the U.S. government’s institutions and programs for strategic outreach to the public of foreign countries.
Too often, the selection of leadership at the U.S. government’s broadcasting services has focused strictly on journalistic credentials, more so than on foreign-policy expertise. microgen/Getty Images

The announcement of new leadership at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty could signal the beginning of a new era in U.S. international broadcasting. 

Last week, foreign-policy specialist and German Marshall Fund senior fellow Jamie Fly was appointed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s new president, a choice that bodes well for the mission and for management of the Prague-based media operation.

Fly brings serious foreign-policy credentials to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Too often, the selection of leadership at the U.S. government’s broadcasting services has focused strictly on journalistic credentials, more so than on foreign-policy expertise.

That in turn has contributed to a lack of proper focus on mission and priorities. 

The U.S. Agency for Global Media is not a traditional media operation—nor should it be. It’s part of the strategic toolkit of U.S. foreign policy and should prioritize its resources accordingly.

Fly, who will take over on Aug. 1, currently serves as director of the German Marshall Fund’s Future of Geopolitics and Asia programs and co-director of its transatlantic Alliance for Securing Democracy. 

His resume also includes stints as a staffer in Congress, the National Security Council, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

“Jamie is an extraordinary choice to lead RFE/RL at this critical juncture,” said Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and U.S. Agency for Global Media Board Chairman Ken Weinstein.

“RFE/RL’s mission of providing objective news to audiences needing fact-based information and analysis is more vital than ever,” Weinstein said.

“Jamie’s understanding of geopolitics, passion for human rights, and broad contacts in Washington and around the globe make him ideally suited to lead the network in delivering top-rate content across all platforms to audiences in Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran,” he added.

A new beginning for the rest of the media services under the U.S. Agency for Global Media, however, depends on the willingness of Congress to move forward with the nomination of a new chief executive officer to lead the agency. 

Major broadcasting reforms were mandated by law in 2016, but have not been advanced by the Trump administration.

Management under current CEO John Lansing (who did not go through Senate confirmation) has gone downhill, with scandal after scandal rocking the agency, including Lansing’s top aide, Haroon Ullah, defrauding the U.S. government of tens of thousands of dollars; numerous reporters in the Nigerian service taking bribes; and journalists in VOA’s Mandarian service being punished because of interference by the Chinese regime.

The Daily Caller News Foundation on Tuesday described persistent anti-Trump social media activity by a Voice of America staffer, which the management has failed to address.   

Wrote veteran Azeri reporter Khadija Ismayil on Facebook last year after resigning from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

I left RFE/RL recently, when I felt it is difficult for me and my colleagues to make senior management (most of whom are in a crisis of career stagnation) to listen to its journalists.

Stand strong, my dear Georgian colleagues; don’t compromise journalism. Unlike managers in Prague, for you it is more than a workplace and paycheck. It is about the right to tell truth.

President Donald Trump more than a year ago nominated documentary filmmaker Michael Pack for the job of CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media. Senators need to move without delay to get Pack’s confirmation hearing under way.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal