Exclusive: Watchdog Sues Voice of America News for Alleged Anti-American, Pro-Islamist Reporting

An Iranian woman waves a burnt US flag during commemorations marking 41 years since the Is
Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

In light of Voice of America News’ (VOA) failure to respond to dozens of FOIA requests over alleged pro-Islamic bias in its Persian reporting, the American Accountability Foundation (AAF) filed a lawsuit last week accusing VOA of withholding communications that demonstrate the broadcasting service’s role in disseminating “messages opposed to American interest.”

The American Accountability Foundation (AAF), a political watchdog group that investigates and reports on bureaucratic overreach that impacts constitutional liberties, shared its complaint against the U.S. government-funded international radio broadcaster and news outlet with Breitbart News on Sunday.

In it, Voice of America (VOA), an independent arm of the U.S. government, is accused of failing to respond to nearly 60 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests throughout an investigation into allegations that VOA was “amplifying anti-American and pro-Islamist reporting” targeting both Iranians in the region as well as Iranian-Americans.

“Voice of America and the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) have a history of pushing partisan propaganda and manipulating the visa system to benefit shady foreign nationals,” said AAF founder Tom Jones in a statement to Breitbart News. 

“Now, while using American taxpayer dollars, they are openly violating FOIA rules to shield their bad behavior from the public,” he added.

VOA, an arm of the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), the oldest U.S.-funded international broadcaster, is responsible for providing objective news and information to affiliate stations worldwide in dozens of languages, including Persian in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

AAF alleges in its lawsuit that locals in the Middle East have raised concerns that “VOA has been infiltrated by anti-American, pro-Islamic state interests, and that the message of VOA had been compromised in a manner that was biased toward the Islamic state factions in Iran.”

These concerns, including poor USAGM supervision, biased coverage, and the use of VOA to facilitate immigration visas for individuals close to the Islamic Republic government, have been echoed by Iranian-Americans whom the program appears to be targeting. 

AAF claims to have requested communications between VOA staff and individuals in Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, and are accusing VOA of failing to comply with producing the records needed to ascertain the validity of the allegations, which are covered under the federal government’s Freedom of Information Act.

In a statement to Breitbart News, Iranian advocacy group Iranian Americans for Liberty (IAL) threw its support behind the lawsuit. 

“The Iranian Americans for Liberty applaud Tom Jones and the American Accountability Foundation for filing a lawsuit against Voice of America for failing to respond to multiple FOIA requests,” said IAL executive director Bryan E. Leib. “Transparency and accountability are two founding principles located in the VOA charter that they’ve ignored for far too long.”

“It appears to us that AAF is not going to back down on this and we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to support their actions in demanding transparency from VOA,” he added.

In 2020, President Donald Trump took issue with VOA’s news coverage, claiming: “If you heard what’s coming out of the Voice of America, it’s disgusting.” 

“What things they say are disgusting toward our country,” he added.

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.


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