Albanian-American Elez Biberaj named as the new VOA Acting Director

The U.S. Agency for Global Media has named longtime Voice of America journalist Elez Biberaj as the agency’s acting director.

Biberaj’s appointment was announced in an email to staff Tuesday by recently installed USAGM CEO Michael Pack, who also named acting heads of other major U.S. government-funded news networks.

Biberaj has been VOA’s Eurasia Division director since 2006. In that position, he was responsible for VOA programming for audiences in Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and the Balkans. He also has served as chief of the Albanian language service.

In an email to staff Tuesday, Biberaj recounted how his perspective has been shaped by his personal history as a refugee, American immigrant, and nearly 40-year career as a journalist with VOA.

“Our mission is more important today than ever, and VOA is uniquely positioned to tell America’s compelling story, provide U.S. perspectives, and serve as a model of free press,” he wrote.

Biberaj, who holds a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University, takes charge of VOA at a time of heightened public scrutiny over the U.S. government- funded news broadcaster’s editorial independence.

Biberaj’s predecessor at VOA, Amanda Bennett and her deputy, Sandy Sugawara, resigned days before Pack fired the other heads of the U.S. government-funded broadcasting networks in the USAGM earlier this month.

In his note to staff, Biberaj wrote, “The VOA Charter provides for independent news coverage. I will make every effort to ensure our Charter stands, free of political interference or intervention, as our audiences have come to expect.”

Pack announced the leadership positions to staff Tuesday morning and thanked the interim heads of the five USAGM networks.

He named Jeffrey Scott Shapiro as acting director and principal deputy director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB). Shapiro is a lawyer, legal analyst and reporter who worked for the Breitbart news website before becoming an adviser at OCB in 2017.

Parameswaran Ponnudurai, a vice president of programming at Radio Free Asia (RFA) since 2014, was named acting president of RFA.

Kelley Sullivan, a senior executive at Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), was named acting president of MBN.

And Daisy Sindelar, the vice president and editor-in-chief of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), who helped oversee RFE’s collaboration with VOA on the “Current Time” 24/7 Russian language digital news network, was named acting president of RFE/RL.

Pack was confirmed by the Senate on June 4, nearly two years after being nominated for the job by President Donald Trump. He said the appointments announced Tuesday, “will serve critical roles in allowing our networks to become higher performing and to more effectively serve our audiences.”

Together, the five USAGM news networks, including VOA, have a weekly global audience of more than 350 million listeners, viewers and internet users in 61 languages.  (VOA News)

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