NPR Friday aired a report that VOA staffers, past and present, have complained that the U.S. government's overseas news service was being pressured to report positive stories from Iraq and otherwise carry the administration's water.
The current staffers would not go on the record, said NPR, fearing retaliation.
VOA is headed by Ken Tomlinson, who is also the chairman of CPB, which distributes government funding of public radio and TV. Tomlinson has been criticized for pushing conservative programming for noncommercial broadcasting, which he says is an effort to balance liberally biased shows like Now, and critics say is to promote administration viewpoints.
While Tomlinson acknowledges to NPR that there is a "natural tension" between policymakers and journalists, he says: "It's our job simply to make sure the influence [from policymakers] is not undue," he told NPR. VOA Director David Jackson also defended the service, saying that, though government employees, VOA staffers were independent journalists.
Before joining VOA, Jackson, a longtime Time magazine bureau chief, had been editor-in-chief of DefendAmerica.gov, the Defense Department's web site devoted to news about the war on terror.
Tomlinson added in defense of the service's mission: "Newton Minow, the Great Kennedy administration FCC Chairman, said something I have on my wall: "There is no inconsistency in reporting the news accurately and also advocating America's values."
VOA's charter is to report news to other countries. It's propaganda function is arguably meant to be confined to advertising the values of freedom and Democracy by demonstrating the power of an independent press to bring news to countries whose government's may suppress or distort it.