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Judge rules Voice of America head curbed First Amendment rights of journalists

November 22, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

The chief executive of the agency that oversees Voice of America and his team must stop investigating and interfering with the journalists employed there, a federal judge ruled Friday.

(CNN)The chief executive of the agency that oversees Voice of America and his team must stop investigating and interfering with the journalists employed there, a federal judge ruled Friday.

In a 76-page ruling, US District Judge Beryl Howell found that Michael Pack, CEO of the US Agency for Global Media, and his team violated the First Amendment rights of its journalists.

She also found that Pack and his team showed an "extensive pattern of penalizing those USAGM and network employees whom defendants regard as insufficiently supportive of President Trump. "

Howell's ruling bars Pack and others are from continuing any actions that would curb VOA's editorial independence, including taking personnel actions against journalists or editors, attempting to influence content by communicating with individual journalists or editors, and investigating "purported breaches of journalistic ethics. "

The ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by five senior executives at USAGM whom Pack had fired or suspended in August.

"Defendants' extensive pattern of penalizing those USAGM and network employees whom defendants regard as insufficiently supportive of President Trump has resulted in the termination, discipline, and investigation of multiple employees and journalists," the judge wrote in her ruling.

Shawn Powers, USAGM's chief strategy officer and a plaintiff in the case, said that "Judge Howell's injunction against Mr. Pack affirms a central tenet of USAGM's mission: that the protection and exportation of First Amendment rights and values directly support America's national interests. "

In her ruling, Judge Howell described Pack and his co-defendants as "individuals with no discernible journalism or broadcasting experience. " She added that Pack has tried to interfere in the agency's newsrooms "in violation of their eighty-year practice, enshrined in law, of journalistic autonomy. "

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