Bronx, NY—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement regarding Voice of America (VOA) journalists who must urgently depart the United States because United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEO Michael Pack has failed to seek extensions of their visas:
“The United States government hires uniquely qualified journalists from around the world to fill the ranks at Voice of America and help project unbiased news and information to the most closed-off corners of the globe. Michael Pack’s failure to seek visa extensions for these journalists means that they must leave the country, some of them going home to nations where governments regularly silence and harass journalists. It’s unconscionable that a U.S. government agency would create such fear and uncertainty for people whom we asked to do a job.
“Congress’s attempts to seek answers from USAGM on this matter have been met with silence. It’s clear that the agency is just trying to run out the clock until these journalists are forced to leave. Mr. Pack still has time to act to resolve this situation, but make no mistake, he is accountable for what comes next. Any harm that comes to these brave individuals will be a direct result of Michael Pack’s inaction.
“I have appealed to the Departments of Homeland Security and State to extend the grace periods for journalists whose visas have expired to remain in the country. And I will continue to push USAGM to resolve this issue and to respond to a host of other outstanding requests from Capitol Hill. Mr. Pack is due to testify before the Committee on Foreign Affairs on September 24, and he has much to answer for.”
# # #