Ex-Radio Free Europe official: Trump-appointed agency chief brought 'chaos and uncertainty'

Source: Politico | September 24, 2020 | Daniel Lippman

Jamie Fly, a former top aide to Sen. Marco Rubio, was ousted when Michael Pack took command of the federal media group.

Jamie Fly, former president and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, will sharply criticize Michael Pack, the new CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, for politicizing the American government’s international broadcasting arm and severely disrupting U.S. media efforts in a hearing Thursday.

“CEO Pack’s arrival has brought only more chaos and uncertainty to U.S. international broadcasting,” Fly will tell the House Foreign Relations Committee this morning, according to advance written testimony obtained by POLITICO. “This turmoil could not come at a worse time. We are falling behind our competitors. In a few short months, CEO Pack has put the agency he oversees and the grantee networks he funds at significant and potentially irreparable risk.”

Fly, a former top aide to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), was ousted when Pack took command of the federal media group. He plans to say that he was initially optimistic that when Pack arrived, the new CEO could help the agency “chart a new course.”

“I was wrong,” he will say, adding that Pack’s first order of business was to freeze all spending, hiring and contracting at the private grantee organizations. Pack is defying a subpoena to testify at the hearing.

Fly called the freeze “troubling” to him and RFE’s attorneys because it suggested that Pack didn’t understand the differences between federal entities that he oversees, such as Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, and private grantees like RFE, Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Open Technology Fund, which has been the subject of pitched battles over control in recent months that have made its way into the courts.

After Pack’s arrival, Fly and his staff spent days preparing to brief their new boss about their work and challenges facing their journalists, who operate in countries that often aren’t hospitable to impartial journalists.

“But we heard nothing from Mr. Pack or his team – they did not respond to our repeated briefing offers,” Fly says.

Fly will also allege that the way he was fired on June 18 appears to violate the International Broadcasting Act, which says that the board of directors of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty makes major policy decisions, including hiring and firing, not USAGM leadership.

He said he got a letter informing him of his firing only one hour after he received an email saying that the board of directors overseeing RFE/RL was being replaced with a group of people who were mostly Trump administration political appointees. Fly and his counterparts at the other media networks that USAGM funds have not been replaced in the three months since their removal.

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