Sunday, July 31, 2016

International Communication Agency Guidelines for VOA Correspondents (late 1970s)

Note: For a brief period (1978-1982), the United States Information Agency (USIA, 1953-1999) was renamed/reorganized as the International Communication Agency.

From the newly-published papers newly by the Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State


135. Telegram From the International Communication Agency to all Principal Posts 1

Washington, undated

14211. Subject: Guidelines and Operating Procedures for VOA’s Foreign Correspondents.

1. Foreign correspondents of the Voice of America stand at the important and highly visible juncture of journalism and diplomacy.

2. While VOA journalists are government employees, subject to all the laws and regulations which apply to the conduct of everyone in the federal service, they are required at the same time to perform with a high degree of journalistic professionalism and integrity. The work and status of VOA overseas correspondents are identical to those of correspondents for other American press and broadcasting organizations except as specifically noted in this telegram.

3. The primary task of the VOA foreign correspondent, in fulfillment of the VOA Charter’s requirement that Voice of America news be accurate, objective, comprehensive, and consistently authoritative, is to give depth and perspective to the broadcast news file. Bearing in mind the special interests of audiences around the world, the correspondent transmits actualities, eyewitness reports, backgrounders, interviews and advisories designed to assist the foreign listener in understanding the news.

4. VOA correspondents are not investigative reporters. They broadcast the news; they do not present their opinions nor do they editorialize in their reporting.

5. VOA correspondents are supervised directly by the Chief of the VOA News Division in Washington and receive assignments exclusively from the Voice of America. All material submitted by correspondents is reviewed by VOA Washington before usage to ensure that it meets VOA charter standards.

6. VOA correspondents will travel with regular fee (not official or diplomatic) passports; they will enter a country with journalist visas; they will register and be accredited as journalists; they will be subject to local laws and regulations applicable to foreign journalists; they will [Page 392]not have access to classified information; they will use post exchange or commissary facilities on the same basis as non-government American journalists are permitted to use these facilities; and they will not depend on U.S. Embassies or ICA posts for offices or residential space, secretarial services or other administrative support.

7. They will use commercial, not USG communications channels. (Embassy communications will be available only in cases were emergency conditions cause the establishment of “press pool” services available to other American journalists.) U.S. Embassies will be neither more nor less helpful to VOA correspondents than to other American journalists in giving or facilitating interviews, supplying information, aiding in travel. Making other arrangements, assisting with any difficulties.

8. Since the VOA is an official broadcasting service, it cannot, as a practical matter, divorce itself in the minds of many of its listeners from an identification with the U.S. Government. Therefore, a VOA correspondent will not seek an interview with a head of state or other politically prominent or controversial personality, either in or out of government, without the prior approval of the News Division in Washington, if the News Division agrees to the interview, the correspondent will inform the PAO [Public Affairs Officer, head of public diplomacy activities at a U.S. diplomatic mission  - JB) or the Mission of the assignment as much in advance as possible. In the event that the Chief of Mission objects to the assignment, the correspondent will refer the matter to VOA Washington for resolution.

9. The same steps, i.e., prior approval from VOA Washington and prior notification of the PAO or Mission, will be followed in covering any story which can reasonably be deemed sensitive.

10. Similarly, should a story require travel in a war zone or other dangerous area, VOA correspondents will consult in advance with VOA Washington and will keep the Embassy informed of their plans.

11. The VOA correspondent has a general obligation to inform the PAO of his or her presence in the country, and of the general nature of his or her assignment(s). But PAOs will not supervise the work of a VOA correspondent, and the correspondent was no obligation to clear copy with anyone before transmitting it to VOA Washington. Missions, therefore, bear no responsibility for the content of material broadcast by the Voice of America.

12. If requested by the Chief of Mission, the correspondent will promptly provide a copy of the story after it has been filed.

13. Any comments, criticism or questions from the Chief of Mission regarding correspondent activities or copy should be directed to Washington through Department channels with an information copy to ICA.

14. The above guidelines are intended to define and clarify the status and responsibilities of VOA correspondents working abroad. [Page 393]This telegram, therefore, replaces and supersedes CA–800 of April 20, 1972, effective immediately. The considerable task of implementing the administrative arrangements (e.g., office space and housing), and solving specific questions they relate to each correspondent and each locality, will inevitably take additional time. All such arrangements, however, should be effective by October 1, 1978.


1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Associate Directorate for Programs, Subject Files of Basic Operating Documents, 1969–1982, Entry P–100, Basic Documents—1978 [A]. Unclassified. All brackets are in the original. Sent to VOA correspondents in Abidjan, Athens, Bangkok, Brussels, Hong Kong, London, Munich, Nairobi, New Delhi, Panama City, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, and Vienna. Drafted by R. Peter Straus and Tuch on June 28; cleared in D/SO on June 29; approved by Reinhardt. The date and time of the transmission is unclear.↩

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