Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett spoke at a joint briefing convened by the re-established U.S. House of Representatives Freedom of the Press Caucus and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, on Wednesday, October 4. The briefing highlighted the pervasive problem of systematic attacks on journalists in Russia and other post-Soviet states.
“Anytime a journalist is attacked, threatened, abused – it has a dampening effect on the freedom of the press,” said Bennett. “Increasing pressure by governments, whether overt or subtle, is closing the space for independent journalism, honest dialogue, and the free flow of information.” According to Bennett, threats and intimidation are not new to VOA, “but in recent years, we have seen increased harassment by Russian authorities, unexplained bureaucratic delays, and increasingly negative public rhetoric about VOA’s journalism.”
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), co-chair of the Freedom of the Press Caucus and original founder in 2006, remarked on its reestablishment, “Since the Caucus first started, press freedom got worse. Too many journalists are jailed for reporting the truth.” U.S. Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH), co-chair of the caucus, noted, “A strong free press is a natural defense for Putin’s propaganda.” Tom Kent, President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Nina Ognianova of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Echo of Moscow Washington correspondent Karina Orlova, also participated in the briefing.
For more on the congressional briefing click on this article at voanews.com.