On February 24th, 1942, one of the darkest days of the Second World War, radio listeners in Axis-occupied Europe heard this announcement: “Daily at this time we shall speak to you about America and the war. The news may be good or bad. We shall tell you the truth.”
For nearly seventy-five years, VOA has kept that promise. It was a promise reaffirmed on July 12, 1976 in the VOA Charter, given by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Gerald Ford. The Charter provides:
First, that VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news, and that news will be accurate, objective and comprehensive. Second, that VOA will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will present a balanced, comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions. Third, that VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, as well as responsible discussions and opinion of these policies.
The Charter’s first principle protects the journalistic integrity of VOA news: no official is allowed to pressure a reporter to spin a story in a certain direction; the second ensures that the diversity of America – from sea to shining sea, from Muslim to Christian to Jew to non-believer, from universities to factories to think tanks to Hollywood – is represented; and the third guarantees the world knows where the United States government clearly stands on important issues of the day and why.
On the Charter’s 40th anniversary, Amanda Bennett, Director of the Voice of America, spoke of its enduring relevance:
“The VOA Charter has never been more important than it is today. The world really needs a reliable and authoritative source of news and information which is what the VOA Charter intends us to be.”
The Charter remains the Voice of America’s lodestar, guiding its mission to present the truth and, as Director Bennett said, to reflect “all sides of the American discussion.”