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Russian US Reporter Arrest Underscores Media Threat: Bennett

FILE: U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Amanda Bennett, seen during her Senate confirmation hearings. Taken July 6, 2022
FILE: U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Amanda Bennett, seen during her Senate confirmation hearings. Taken July 6, 2022

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - Russia's arrest of a US reporter shows that threats to journalists worldwide are surging, Amanda Bennett, head of USAGM, the US agency that oversees government-funded media including Voice of America, said Friday.

The climate of disinformation and intimidation (that has filled many media platforms) showed the need for outlets that can reach people in countries like China, Iran and Russia, Amanda Bennett, head of the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), said in an interview.

"We've seen the threats to journalists all over the world increase dramatically year by year by year," Bennett told AFP in The Hague when asked about the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

"Journalism is not a crime. You shouldn't be detaining people. You shouldn't be arresting people for doing reporting."

Gershkovich is believed to be the first foreign journalist to be detained on suspicion of spying in post-Soviet Russia.

Bennett, whose agency also oversees Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Cuba-focused Radio Marti and other outlets, was in the Netherlands to lead the US delegation at President Joe Biden's "Summit for Democracy."

She said the audience for such US-taxpayer funded outlets had jumped after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, China's Covid shutdown and women-led protests in Iran.

"Look at the curve of our coverage: when there is some crisis in a country where they don't trust their own government to tell them the truth, they come to us," Bennett said.

"We feel like this is the moment that we were created for," said Bennett.

"We now calculate that we have about 10 percent of the Russian audience inside Russia," she added.

Bennett will also travel to Latvia's capital city, Riga, to visit journalists who had been evacuated from Russia.

along with journalists being threatened, a recent incident in which North Korean hackers posed as VOA reporters to get information on nuclear proliferation meanwhile showed that hacking posed a "huge threat to news organizations everywhere," Bennett added.

Bennett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. previously served as VOA Director before assuming leadership of the agency.