The “Voice of America” Will Remain… Voice Of AMERICA (Not Of Trump): USDC (DC Dist) Judge Howell.

The outcome was always fully-expected (at least in these quarters — as the autocrats rang the bell, clear, loud and long — as an assault on the First Amendment free press clause).

But to see it in a black and white opinion and order is… reassuring. Our free-wheeling, open democracy, all as covered by a truly free press… will march on. And with this opinion, our executive branch’s nightmare of flirtation with autocracy… is now ending. 60 days — 60 days.

We haven’t mentioned this case before, but the occupant of 1600 Penn put a guy named Michael Pack (no actual NEWS media chops) in the lead, at Voice of America — a media outlet our tax dollars fully fund. [It had been a US-charter story, ever since 1942 — to combat Hilter’s propaganda, at the time.]

Enter Pack (at 45’s behuest), who utterly unlike any of his 80 years’ worth of predessors, tried to turn it into a full time Trump propaganda arm, globally. That nonsense has rightly been enjoined, in the federal courts, in DC — by the able Judge Howell — here’s her well-reasoned 78 page opinon, and a bit:

. . .In 1942, the first transmission made by Voice of America (“VOA”), the official, publicly funded news outlet of the U.S. government abroad, promised foreign VOA listeners: “The news may be good or bad; we shall tell you the truth….”

Together with his five co-defendants, who are individuals with no discernible journalism or broadcasting experience but nonetheless appointed by Pack to senior political leadership positions within USAGM, Pack has sought to interfere in the newsrooms of the USAGM networks, in violation of their eighty-year practice, enshrined in law, of journalistic autonomy, and has allegedly worked systematically to eliminate those USAGM employees and network journalists who both oppose his interference and produce journalistic content that, in Pack’s view, does not align with the political interests of [now departing] President Trump. In pursuit of this goal, Pack allegedly seeks to quash not only coverage that is insufficiently supportive of President Trump, but also any coverage, unless unfavorable, of President Trump’s political opponents.

As this Court has previously observed, “[w]idespread misgivings about Pack’s actions raise troubling concerns about the future of these great institutions designed to advance the values and interests of the United States by providing access to accurate news and information and supporting freedom of opinion and expression in parts of the world without a free press.” Open Tech. Fund v. Pack (“OTF”), No. 20-1710 (BAH), 2020 WL 3605935, at *2 (D.D.C. July 2, 2020), appeal filed, No. 20-5195 (D.C. Cir. July 6, 2020). Further steps taken by Pack and his appointees since that observation was made only deepen those misgivings and prompt plaintiffs’ challenge in the instant suit.
Plaintiffs, five senior management officials at USAGM and the Program Director for VOA, claim that defendants’ actions violate the First Amendment, U.S. Const. amend. I, the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (“IBA”), as amended, 22 U.S.C. §§ 6201–16, the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq., and Pack’s fiduciary duties to USAGM as its CEO, and exceed Pack’s statutory authority, through their disregard for the statutory and regulatory “firewall” intended to protect the USAGM networks from Executive branch interference in their daily operations and journalistic endeavors. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 159–201, ECF No. 36. Plaintiffs seek an order preliminarily enjoining defendants’ “unlawful and unconstitutional conduct….”

Upon consideration of the briefing and exhibits submitted by the parties and amici curiae, as supplemented after a hearing on the pending motion for preliminary injunctive relief, the Court concludes that plaintiffs have made the requisite showings, including a likelihood of success on the merits of at least one of their claims, to obtain part of the extraordinary relief they seek. Consequently, as explained in more detail below, their motion is granted….

Very good news.

I am smiling, and smiling widely, as I know kiddos’ sweet Christmas photos with Santa will once again become a normal, maskless event — by this time next year, up here… in the great cold white north. With the vaccine nearly in our grasp… we must make it available to all, by this time next year. We must.

नमस्ते

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