VOA Director Dan Austin has delivered a speech at a panel on new media in Germany. It is well worth reading in its entirety. But we wanted to point out a few noteworthy passages:
“Ever since the Voice of America was founded in 1942, we have been in competition with those who use media to mislead and manipulate, to promote agendas of narrow self-interest, even hate.
“I can tell you from experience that there seems to be little we can do to make some of those who inhabit this space responsible, let alone accountable.
“That is not to say, however, that there is nothing to be done. Indeed I want to offer some practical steps that I believe broadcasters and, in some cases, governments can take to promote better, more responsible use of both old and new media.”
Austin calls first for more resources for international media training. He also calls for more legal protections for journalists and more access to information:
“That includes open meeting laws, freedom of information statutes, and transparency in the workings of government.”
The VOA Director also calls for “rigidly enforcing the dividing line between government-financed efforts to inform people – and government-financed attempts to influence and even mislead a population without revealing that government's involvement or motives.”
He then makes a point which readers of the News Blog will find familiar:
“The Voice of America does not do propaganda. And neither do other international broadcasters who recognize that credibility with an audience is the most powerful tool they have, that reporting news accurately and fairly in order to help people reach their own decisions is an end, not a means.
“If we draw the line between honest, fair reporting and analysis and “influence operations” that are disguised as journalism, we show the world what it means to be responsible. We also give the people of the world, who often know propaganda when they see it, a clear choice of whom to believe, and whom to ignore or reject.”