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Reply from the Voice of America

Reader comment on item: The Voice of America, Silenced on Radical Islam

Submitted by Joan Mower (United States), Mar 6, 2009 at 21:25

The Voice of America (VOA) regularly provides guidance to our journalists on style and usage to enable writers to communicate with audiences clearly, precisely and consistently. It was in this context that Jennifer Janin wrote to the Urdu Service, reinforcing guidelines in the VOA News Stylebook, which is updated regularly.

What Mr. Pipes' readers may not know is that VOA is governed by the VOA Charter, which became a law in July 12, 1976 was reiterated in the more recent U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994. It mandates the U.S. international broadcaster "will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive."

VOA reaches an estimated 134 million people around the world in 45 languages by radio, television and Internet. A major reason for our success is our credibility, which reflects our vigorous adherence to the Charter and VOA's Journalistic Code, calling for reliable and unbiased reporting.

Finally, Mr. Pipes' comments about Spozhmai Maiwandi are unacceptable. Ms. Maiwandi, director of VOA's Southeast Asia Division, is a professional journalist, a loyal American citizen and a longtime, valued employee of the Voice of America.

Joan Mower

Director, public relations

Voice of America

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Daniel Pipes replies:

Ms Mower is Director of Public Relations at the Voice of America, so her comment (which she also posted on her own blog as "VOA response to Daniel Pipes") amounts to an official VOA response to my article.

She does not dispute the thrust of my article about the change in vocabulary.

She does contest my characterization of Spozhmai Maiwandi, only not by refuting the information I provided but by insisting on the virtues of this person. To prove my comments "unacceptable," however, requires more than that - such as some actual proof of where I am wrong.

On the topic of Maiwandi, here, drawing on an International Journalis' Network article of Sep. 29, 2001, "Voice of America ignores State Department; airs voice clip of Taliban leader," is something about the politics of her interview with Mullah Omar:

Despite objections from the U.S. Department of State, the semi-independent Voice of America (VOA) recently aired a news report that included portions of an interview it conducted with Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of Afghanistan's Taliban militia. …

Four days before broadcasting the story, VOA officials had decided not to air the report, after Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and senior officials from the National Security Council had contacted members of VOA's board of governors objecting to the report, saying it gave a platform to terrorists. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher had also said that airing the report was not consistent with the VOA charter to present "responsible discussion" about government policies. "We don't consider Mullah Omar to be responsible discussion," he said.

VOA staff members, quoted by the Washington Post, vehemently objected to the decision to kill the report. "It goes against every principle of journalistic ethics," said one journalist. "How can you talk about what we're fighting against, if you don't give these people voice," said another staff member. …

In the voice clip, Mullah Omar does not mention the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, but does criticize the U.S. government for undermining Islam. "America controls the governments of the Islamic countries," he said, according to a translation from the Pashtu language. "America keeps after them until they do its bidding. But these governments are very distant from their own people."

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