Special to WorldTribune May 8, 2019
Analysis by Judicial Watch
It’s ironic that, just weeks after firing journalists behind a broadcast critical of leftwing billionaire George Soros, the head of the U.S. government’s international media networks is proclaiming his support for “press freedom.” U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) Chief John F. Lansing, an Obama appointee, issued a heartfelt statement a few days ago reaffirming his “commitment to the fundamental principles of press freedom.”
In the document, titled “Fighting for press freedom, today and everyday,” Lansing assures the world that his agency “will continue to report the truth,” though it recently cost USAGM journalists their jobs. The occasion was World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on May 3, and Lansing expresses deep concern that his taxpayer-funded agency “continues to witness firsthand how a free and independent media is deteriorating worldwide.”
Posted on the agency’s website and disbursed worldwide, the document goes on to say “despite some very dark moments, we have not been silenced. We will continue to report the truth. We will continue to find new ways to get independent reporting and programming to global audiences who rely on it.
Related: U.S. media agency, headed by Obama appointee, fires 8 journalists for anti-Soros report, March 7, 2016
And we will continue to carry through our mission to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. Today, and every day, I am proud to be part of this organization, and call these brave men and women colleagues, as we stand together for press freedom.”
Lansing conveniently omits that he recently utilized Stalinist techniques to retaliate against USAGM journalists and producers involved in the Soros piece. The Spanish-language segment aired in May 2018 on Television Martí and was available for months online until it caught the eye of a scandal-plagued senator tried for bribery and corruption.
Eight reporters and editors at the publicly funded media outlet were terminated and, at the request of the disgraced senator, New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, Lansing ordered a review of all content to address “patterns of unethical, unprofessional, biased, or sub-standard journalism.” An employee at the Miami, Florida-based Martí headquarters said in a local newspaper report “the environment that has been created by the upper hierarchy of the Agency for Global Media is repressive. People write with fear. Adjectives are no longer used.”
Television Martí — and its radio counterpart — operate under the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) and comprise one of the USAGM’s five international multimedia networks. The others are Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia and Middle East Broadcasting. The media outlets get about $685 million a year from American taxpayers and reportedly reach 345 million people worldwide in 59 languages.
The global media agency was created to counter disinformation spread by oppressive regimes abroad. The USAGM website states that its mission is “to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.” Television and Radio Martí were created to promote freedom and democracy by providing the people of Cuba with objective news and information programming.
The Soros broadcast focused on his efforts to cripple sovereign governments in Latin America. Judicial Watch was cited as a source because it investigated State Department funding of Soros groups in Colombia and published a report on Soros’ initiatives to advance a radical globalist agenda in Guatemala. Judicial Watch also released a special report documenting the financial and staffing nexus between Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSF) and the U.S. government.
In that document, Judicial Watch connects the dots between U.S.-funded entities and OSF affiliates to further the Hungarian-born philanthropist’s agenda seeking to destabilize legitimate governments, erase national borders, target conservative politicians, finance civil unrest, subvert institutions of higher education, and orchestrate refugee crises for political gain. A few years ago, Judicial Watch exposed a scheme in which the U.S. government spent millions of dollars to destabilize the democratically elected, center-right government in Macedonia by colluding with Soros’ OSF.
More than five months after the Spanish-language Soros broadcast aired on Television Martí, Menendez ordered Lansing to conduct an immediate investigation and the USAGM chief retaliated against his own staff for practicing the “press freedom” he defends weeks later.
Menendez, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee despite his sordid history, blocked President Trump’s nomination last year to replace Lansing as USAGM chief so perhaps Lansing owed him. A few years ago, Menendez was charged with federal bribery and corruption stemming from his relationship with a crooked south Florida eye doctor that lavished him with cash, gifts and trips in exchange for political favors. The eye doctor, Salomon Melgen, got convicted of stealing $73 million from Medicare and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Menendez got off because jurors were unable to reach a verdict and his trial ended in mistrial. His colleagues on the Senate Ethics Committee determined that the veteran lawmaker not only violated senate rules, but also federal law and applicable standards of conduct. In a public letter of admonition, the committee writes that over a six-year period Menendez knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from Melgen in violation of senate rules and federal law. “Additionally, while accepting these gifts, you used your position as a Member of the Senate to advance Dr. Melgen’s personal and business interests,” the committee writes.