https://ift.tt/3Omb2K8 of America placed two journalists in its Russian-language service on leave Friday following complaints over their prior employment at Kremlin-backed groups.
Staff at the agency flagged concerns to managers in November shortly after the two journalists — Harry Knyagnitsky and Daria Davydova — were hired.
The letter, signed by 15 of the Russian service’s 92 journalists, said that in their previous employment, Knyagnitsky and Davydova had promoted pro-Kremlin narratives on Ukraine.
After Ukrainian media reported on the internal criticism this week, more than 20 journalists who are part of the Ukraine Media Movement coalition on Thursday called for Knyagnitsky to be dismissed.
Some of those to sign the Media Movement letter work for VOA affiliates.
When asked Thursday about the hiring decisions and whether action would be taken, VOA public relations did not respond directly, saying that for decades the network “has hired experienced journalists from repressive societies, including Russia.”
Voice of America regularly hires foreign journalists who have language fluency skills and regional knowledge to produce credible, authoritative journalism in more than 40 languages. The agency says all of its journalists’ work is subject to editorial review before publication.
“All VOA journalists work under editorial supervision and guidance that ensures that all of their work adheres to the highest journalism standards and our Charter. The work of Ms. Davydova and Mr. Knyagnitsky, like that of other VOA journalists, goes through the news agency’s rigorous editing process.”
In a follow-up request for comment when details of the employees being put on leave were reported in the U.S. media, VOA public relations wrote in an email late Friday, “VOA can confirm that the two Russian language service journalists were placed on leave with pay as VOA reviews the issues involved. This action is standard practice, and as part of VOA’s internal review, both journalists will be interviewed.”
Knyagnitsky and Davydova were hired in October 2022 and had been vetted as part of the security process that all VOA staff undergo.
In the open call from the Ukraine Media Movement, the coalition reviewed previous reporting and flagged several instances where Knyagnitsky pushed pro-Kremlin narratives, including on the Donbas region and Crimea while working for NTV.
“During his time at NTV, Knyagnitsky seems to have managed to support all Russia’s propaganda narratives,” the open letter read.
The once independent broadcaster, which was known for pushing boundaries in Russia’s tightly controlled media scene, was taken over in 2001 by the state-run Gazprom energy company.
Knyagnitsky left NTV in 2017 and moved to the U.S. where he worked for another Russian-backed broadcaster, RTV1. He left that station when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Knyagnitsky and Davydova did not respond to emails Saturday requesting comments before publication.
In a comment to The Washington Post, Knyagnitsky denied he is a propagandist and said he had left RTV1 when management tried to control coverage of the Russian invasion.
After VOA staff raised concerns on the hirings on November 29, VOA’s senior management held a meeting in December with the Russian division and the VOA standard’s editor, to discuss concerns.
After that meeting, VOA said one of the signatories removed their name from the letter.
At two staff meetings held since, no one in the Russian service raised the issue, according to VOA.
When hiring, newsrooms have a responsibility to prioritize integrity and journalism skills, analysts say.
“Every case should be judged on its own, every journalist on their own work. VOA, like any media organization, has a responsibility to hire journalists who work with integrity, who have strong reporting skills, and who are committed to reporting the truth,” said Ann Cooper, professor emerita, Columbia Journalism School.
“Did VOA managers look at the journalist’s prior and more recent work, and are they comfortable that the reporting the journalist is doing for VOA meets their standards? That’s what matters here,” said Cooper, an experienced foreign journalist who was NPR’s first Moscow bureau chief.
VOA journalists, including its Russia division have produced hundreds of hours of programming to dispel Moscow disinformation and propaganda about the war.
“VOA Russian is committed to continue delivering factual news and comprehensive reporting to its audience,” VOA Public Relations said in a statement.
VOA’s hiring process was called into question previously over the investigations into Setareh Derakhshesh Sieg, who had worked in VOA’s Persian service.
Sieg was removed from her position in 2020, after a USAGM investigation found she had falsified credentials and abused public funds.
In February 2021, after a change in USAGM leadership following the election of President Joe Biden, a new investigation exonerated Sieg.
In December 2022, Representative Michael McCaul, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a letter to USAGM CEO Amanda Bennett requesting documents and information about the decision to retain Sieg.
The letter said, “To our dissatisfaction, the responses that USAGM provided [earlier] were inadequate and failed to take account of [the] various inconsistencies regarding Sieg’s alleged credentials.”
Author firstname.lastname@example.org (VOA News)
Source : VOA