AFGE Local 1812

The War on Information

In an editorial worthy of the very worst days of the Cold War, the Voice of Russia, the anti-U.S. voice of the Putin dictatorship, gloats that "Orwellian US propaganda tool VOA is finished in Russia." Let's hope not.

The Voice of Russia is alluding to the fact that the United States Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees, when allowed to do so by the IBB bureaucracy, Voice of America and Radio Liberty broadcasts, recently received a terse one-sentence letter from Dmitry Kiselyov, the head and chief propagandist of Russia Today (Rossiya Segodnya), in which he stated that the Voice of America license to broadcast on AM radio in Russia would not be renewed after their contract ran out on April 1st.

The Washington Post also wrote an editorial about this and makes it clear that the Putin regime takes issue with VOA and Radio Liberty for broadcasting a different point of view  to the Russian people. Years ago, with input from our members in the language services, we warned against entrusting others with BBG transmissions especially those in newly democratic societies. This included relying on placement and affiliate broadcasts as well as abandoning shortwave radio broadcasts in favor of Internet-only programming or trusting any kind of broadcasting partnership with the increasingly autocratic and erratic Putin regime.

In recent letters to Congress, AFGE Local 1812 has emphasized the strategic importance of resuming shortwave broadcasts to Russia and Ukraine as part of an overall multi-platform U.S. broadcasting communications effort to reach people in the eastern part of Ukraine and the Crimea where Russian propaganda is most intense. At the present time, shortwave remains the most reliable vehicle to reach listeners in the nine time zones of Russia as well as a wider area of Ukraine and Crimea and remains as a foundation if the Internet, TV and social media are blocked. This multi-media platform could ensure that the people in Ukraine and Russia get necessary and true information about the situation tragically developing in their countries.

Our technicians at the Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in Greenville, NC say that the facility's antennae could be easily directed towards Kiev and the rest of Ukraine as well as to Russia. Transmission costs are modest and would be key in ensuring the free flow of information to essential parts of the country especially before the crucial May elections.

Russia is not going to give the U.S. a level playing field, as BBG Chairman Shell and indeed all of us would wish. In addition, proposed new restrictive Russian legislation calls for up to 5 years of imprisonment for those who spread ideas of separatism, a law which could involve Radio Liberty employees in Moscow writing for the Internet or its correspondents.

It's time for the BBG to take a more pro-active and strategic approach to waging this very real information war in which the VOA should now be more engaged. If we don't, we will prove to everyone that, indeed, we are dysfunctional and defunct.


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