Wednesday, January 13, 2021

VOA Reporter Reassigned For Peppering Pompeo With Questions

The director of Voice of America ordered the reassignment of a reporter for the international news organization after she sought to ask questions of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a VOA-sponsored appearance on Monday, according to several people who attended the event.

The Washington Post reports Patsy Widakuswara, who covers the White House for VOA, was ordered off the beat by Director Robert Reilly after firing questions at Pompeo after his speech and a brief Q&A session conducted by Reilly.

Pompeo, who had spoken about “American exceptionalism” and criticized oppressive regimes in China, Iran and elsewhere during his appearance, ignored Widakuswara’s questions as he left VOA’s headquarters in Washington.

Reilly, a former VOA director and conservative writer, was appointed to head the government-funded agency last month by Michael Pack, who since June has headed VOA’s parent organization, the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

The White House Correspondents’ Association called the decision to reassign Widakuswara “an assault on the First Amendment” in a statement Tuesday morning. VOA’s action “is an affront to the very ideals Secretary of State Pompeo discussed in his speech Monday,” wrote Zeke Miller, the organization’s president. It “harms the interests of all Americans who depend on the free press to learn about the actions of their government and gives comfort to efforts to restrict press freedom around the world.”

Widakuswara had been scheduled to fly on Air Force One with the president Tuesday as a member of the press travel pool. She told the correspondents group Monday night that she would be unable to fulfill the assignment as a result of her reassignment.

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