Ranking Member Barbara Lee Statement at United States Agency for Global Media
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ranking Member of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's oversight hearing on the United States Agency for Global Media:
**As prepared for delivery**
Thank you, Chairman Diaz-Balart for hosting this important hearing. And thank you to our witness, Amanda Bennett, the CEO of the United States Agency for Global Media, for being here today.
The United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) has a mandate and mission that is more relevant now than perhaps ever. As the world grows ever more connected, the importance of objective news and accurate information is essential to the health, livelihoods, and stability of vulnerable people in some of the most difficult countries. Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia are a key part of meeting this central strategic interest.
Today, the U.S. Agency for Global Media and its grantees are at the forefront of supporting freedom where it is consistently being undermined. Working across 63 different languages to an audience of 410 million people last year, the demand for independent journalism continues to grow. According to human rights groups, there were 187 internet shutdowns in 35 countries in 2022– the highest number in a single year since such statistics were tracked. USAGM’s affiliates are critical lifelines in China, Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Russia and Burma among others.
For example, in their support for freedom globally, USAGM and its Open Technology Fund, are supporting Iranian protestors galvanizing Iranian society as they demonstrate. USAGM is key to keeping the internet on and working for these protestors and ensuring they can communicate with one another. I will continue to stand with the women of Iran, and USAGM is at the forefront of helping make that happen.
As anyone who tries to keep up with the latest social media knows, it is not easy to stay cutting edge and relevant. After years of criticism by several of my colleagues and myself, as well as several derogatory Inspector General reports, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting has instituted several reforms that I hope will bring the credibility needed to properly serve the Cuban people.
By supporting USAGM, we are strengthening one of our most important resources in the fight against misinformation and for democracy globally. Access to information is a human right. The U.S. Agency for Global Media protects this right for millions around the world and is a rightful cornerstone of U.S. engagement abroad.
With that, I thank Chairman Diaz-Balart and I yield back.