Michael Pack, the new CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, has indicated he will not approve visa extensions for dozens of foreign nationals working at Voice of America — the international broadcaster for the federal government overseen by the agency, NPR reports.
In a statement sent to TheWrap, a spokesperson for the U.S. Agency for Global Media did not say whether the visas would be renewed but that the agency was doing a “case-by-case assessment” of visa-holding “personal services contractors.”
“To improve agency management and protect U.S. national security, it is imperative to determine that hiring authorities and personnel practices are not misused,” the spokesperson said. “As such, USAGM is undertaking a comprehensive, case-by-case assessment of personal services contractors (PSCs) who are J-1 visa holders.”
According to the Washington Post, Pack’s signaled disinterest in renewing the visas may affect about 100 employees and the production of VOA’s non-English-language programming.
The organization has a mission of delivering objective news and information to those without a free press, “telling America’s story,” and laying out America’s government and policies to the world.
Voice of America’s director and deputy director resigned in June after the congressional confirmation of conservative filmmaker Pack to oversee the government broadcast agency. Pack is a close ally of former campaign strategist and White House adviser Stephen Bannon. Pack was approved after a push from President Donald Trump’s administration and his promotion was widely opposed by Democratic leaders.
In a memo to VOA staffers, director Amanda Bennett wrote on behalf of herself and deputy director Sandra Sugawara, “Nothing about you, your passion, your mission or your integrity changes. Michael Pack swore before Congress to respect and honor the firewall that guarantees VOA’s independence, which in turn plays the single most important role in the stunning trust our audiences around the world have in us. We know that each one of you will offer him all of your skills, your professionalism, your dedication to mission, your journalistic integrity and your personal hard work to guarantee that promise is fulfilled.”