Appeals court blocks staffing changes from Trump Administration's new head of the Voice of America

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The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit issued a rare emergency injunction July 21, blocking staffing changes that the Trump Administration’s new head of the Voice of America made to a US organization that protects digital speech worldwide. In a bluntly worded two-page order, the panel warned that actions taken by Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker and associate of former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, could endanger activists under repressive governments who rely on the Open Technology Fund to combat Internet censorship and surveillance.

Pack had fired the technology group’s top officials and bipartisan board since being confirmed June 4 as chief executive of the US Agency for Global Media, which oversees Voice of America and four US government-funded news outlets: the Open Technology Fund, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and Middle East Broadcasting Networks. US Circuit Judges David S. Tatel, Thomas B. Griffith, Patricia A. Millett ruled that it appeared Pack did not have statutory authority to appoint or control the fund’s board members or operations. In staying Pack’s changes pending “highly expedited” appeal, the judges said existing board members who filed suit showed that “the government’s actions have jeopardized OTF’s relationships with its partner organizations, leading its partner organizations to fear for their safety.” The court said the fund also would face “an increasing risk that its decision-making will be taken over by the government,” undermining its reputation and effectiveness.

Appeals court blocks Trump administration takeover of organization fighting digital censorship and surveillance Court Blocks Pack Replacement of OTF Leadership (Multichannel News)