WASHINGTON, January 24 (Sputnik) – RT's broadcasting should not have been assessed by the US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) based on uninformed assumptions, as alternative reporting is part of free speech, Fred Brown, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Ethics Committee Vice chair, has told Sputnik.
Andrew Lack, the first chief executive of the BBG, labelled RT as one of the main challenges to his agency, along with radical militant groups such as the Islamic State (IS) and Boko Haram. In response, RT announced Friday that it would send letters to the BBG, the US State Department and the US Embassy in Russia demanding an explanation why the channel was compared to IS extremists.
"I have no way to evaluate the thought processes of Mr. [Andrew] Lack or the Board of Governors. I don't want to make uniformed assumptions about motivations or possible agendas. Of course, Mr. Lack and the board shouldn't be doing that, either, in their assessment about RT," Brown told Sputnik Friday.
He stressed that alternative reporting is an important element of the open exchange of views protected in the United Stated by the First Amendment.
"Alternative coverage is part of free speech," Brown asserted. "It should be accepted and, as long as it is not doing anything unprincipled, respected," he added.
"It appears as though he was saying that the 'threat' is that other organizations, including these three, have been very effective at telling their stories, giving their version of events. He seems to be saying the United States needs to improve its story-telling as well," Brown explained.
He also underlined that the US government, particularly former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, was very leery of Al-Jazeera when it was launched.
"I remember a scene in the documentary 'Control Room' where he [Rumsfeld] accused it of being extremely slanted in its coverage. He called it propaganda (which is, when you come right down to it, just a nasty way of saying 'we want to get our side of the story out there, too')," Brown told Sputnik, adding that the same documentary showed Al-Jazeera was not excluded from the pool of reporters covering the war in Iraq.
Brown stressed that Al-Jazeera "has since earned considerable respect for its journalistic practices".
RT's editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said that she was "extremely outraged" that Lack had put the news outlet "in the same breadth as world's number one terrorist army".
US Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki said that RT and terrorist organizations IS and Boko Haram should not be labelled together as the main challenges that the United States faces.
The BBG is an independent federal agency of the US government. It supervises all of US government-supported civilian international media, such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Radio Free Asia.
Lack, BBG's first chief executive, had previously served as president of NBC News.