Washington, D.C., June 15, 2020 — In response to a newly published internal email showing that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prohibited its employees from accepting interviews with the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“It is reprehensible that a government agency would decline to take interviews with Voice of America, or any other outlet, to avoid angering the White House. The Trump administration has created an environment of fear for officials speaking to the press, which interferes with the media’s work as a watchdog,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “For the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to restrict the flow of information during a pandemic is particularly troubling.”
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The April 30 internal email, which was made public in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Knight First Amendment Institute, stated that the CDC would not respond to interview requests from “anyone affiliated with Voice of America.” The email specifically cited the White House’s disapproval with the network as a reason for the decision. In April, the White House issued a statement condemning the broadcaster and accusing it of spreading Chinese propaganda, as CPJ documented at the time.
Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett, who is a member of CPJ’s board of directors, issued a statement yesterday condemning the CDC policy; today, she resigned from her position at the broadcaster, according to news reports.