Discrimination of Refugee Broadcasters by Voice of America Management Has Been Hidden for Decades

Treated for decades as second-class citizens and denied direct access to wire services by native-born, mostly white, mostly left-leaning, and mostly male Voice of America (VOA) managers and reporters, these VOA immigrant broadcasters, some of them outstanding women journalists who spent time in communist prisons, did their best to win the propaganda war with the Soviet Union and its satellite regimes.

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Voice of America immigrant broadcasters working in the United States who avoided or escaped life under communism knew they were marginalized and discriminated against by VOA’s native-born managers, but most of them did not complain publicly because they believed in VOA’s mission. Refugee Voice of America journalists raising families and rebuilding their lives in America in most cases could not afford to jeopardize their U.S. government employment. They also knew that they could do much more for the people behind the iron curtain if they continued to work for VOA even with all the restrictions and obstacles put in their way. They knew that they were doing something good and important even under very restrictive conditions.

During budget debates in Congress, the Voice of America management took credit for the work of their anti-communist foreign-born broadcasters but afterwards did not provide them with resources and freedom to do their job to achieve full impact until President Reagan took office and his appointed officials carried out management reforms at VOA.

The photograph, circa 1974, shows the legendary VOA Polish Service journalist Zofia Korbońska who during World War II was a member of the anti-Nazi resistance movement and escaped from Poland with her husband Stefan Korboński in 1947 to avoid being arrested by the communist regime. She started working for the Voice of America in 1948 and retired in the 1980s. She died in Washington, DC in 2010. The Voice of America is now managed by the federal U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).

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to be published in 2022
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