A federal judge ruled Friday that the head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees Voice of America (VOA) and other networks, unconstitutionally interfered with the news service when he went after its journalists for alleged bias against President Trump, NPR reports.
Five suspended officials from the USAGM sued CEO Michael Pack in early October, accusing him of violating the “firewall” that protects international broadcasters from political interference.
The officials alleged that Pack and others investigated and punished journalists for negative stories about the president, as well as stories about now President-elect Joe Biden and the racial justice protests across the U.S.
The suit also asserted that Pack, who was confirmed by the Senate earlier this year, was preventing news agencies from reporting objectively by withholding funds and refusing to extend visas for non-Americans who work for the broadcast agencies.
U.S. Judge Beryl Howell found that Pack’s actions likely “violated and continue to violate [journalists’] First Amendment rights because, among other unconstitutional effects, they result in self-censorship and the chilling of First Amendment expression.”
“These current and unanticipated harms are sufficient to demonstrate irreparable harm,” Howell, an appointee of President Obama, added in her opinion.
Howell ordered Pack to stop any interference in VOA’s news coverage and editorial personnel matters.
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