August 07, 2020

Wyden Urges Trump Administration to Renew Foreign Journalist Visas

In a letter to USAGM CEO Michael Pack, Wyden presses agency to continue mission to promote democracy and press freedom with foreign journalist partners

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today urged the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) to renew J-1 visas for foreign journalists employed by public international broadcasters after reports indicated the agency was considering otherwise.  

In a letter to USAGM CEO Michael Pack, Wyden wrote, “The USAGM and its grantees employ foreign journalists to carry out the agency’s mission to ‘inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.’ Foreign journalists are essential to this mission, bringing critical language skills and invaluable firsthand insights from around the world. Media organizations supported by the USAGM have made it clear that they rely on J-1 visas to recruit and retain these talented journalists and believe strongly that doing so furthers our country’s position as a global leader in press freedom.”

“Losing these journalists would undermine the USAGM’s ability to promote the same democratic values abroad that Americans enjoy here at home. In addition, failure to renew these visas would put many of these journalists at great risk, forcing them to travel during a pandemic and, in some cases, sending them back to countries with a track record of hostility toward journalists,” Wyden continued.

Wyden also asked CEO Pack a series of questions regarding the status of J-1 visa renewals for foreign journalists by USAGM and requested an agency response by August 31, 2020:

  1. Is the USAGM conducting a case-by-case review of J-1 visa renewal applications?  If so, has the USAGM ever conducted a similar review in its history?
  2. How many foreign journalists and foreign national employees does the USAGM employ on J-1 visas?
  3. Will you commit to provide a determination for every J-1 visa application before foreign nationals lose their current visa status?
  4. Has the USAGM declined to seek renewal of J-1 visas for any foreign journalists this year?  If so, how many and what was the reason for declining the application? 
  5. Are you aware that the President’s recent executive order to suspend new J-1 visas does not apply to foreign nationals who are already lawfully present in the United States?

This letter was endorsed by PEN America, an organization striving to protect free expression in the United States and abroad.

A copy of Wyden’s letter is available here.