FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 11, 2021
Voice of America Reinstates Whistleblower Wrongly Fired by Michael Pack
VOA Acquits Veteran Editor Falsely Charged with Improperly Posting Urdu Language Video of Biden Campaign Speech
WASHINGTON—Today, Government Accountability Project applauds the recent reinstatement of a respected Voice of America (VOA) editor — a whistleblower — wrongly fired at the behest of the then-head of the agency overseeing VOA, Michael Pack. Mr. Pack, a Trump political appointee, resigned on January 20, 2021, within two hours of President Biden’s inauguration.
Until mid-August 2020, the editor, Tabinda Naeem — a 15-year federal employee whose work has always been exemplary — was the Supervisory Managing Editor of the VOA Urdu Service (VOA publishes and broadcasts worldwide in 62 languages, including Urdu). Mr. Pack sought to remove Ms. Naeem because in late-July 2020, the Urdu Service posted on a VOA Urdu language social media site for five days a video — in Urdu — of a campaign speech given by then-Vice President Biden (the Biden video). Mr. Pack claimed that the video was unbalanced and constituted an advertisement for the Biden Presidential Campaign.
On August 12, 2020, VOA notified Ms. Naeem that it had begun a proceeding proposing to remove Ms. Naeem from federal service and placing her on indefinite administrative leave. The reason? Ms. Naeem had allegedly failed in her supervisory duties by allowing the posting of the Biden video.
Government Accountability Project then promptly intervened to help Ms. Naeem. It successfully convinced the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to request that VOA stay the removal proceeding. When the agency refused to honor the request, Government Accountability project next sought relief from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), OSC’s oversight agency. At that point, VOA agreed to settle the matter through mediation.
Meanwhile, on January 29, 2021, VOA notified Ms. Naeem that the case had been dismissed, effectively mooting out the need for MSPB mediation. In reaching that result, the deciding VOA official wrote:
“I do not believe you should be faulted for its [(the Biden video’s] content. … I find that your involvement in the story was tangential …. I am not convinced that you failed to carry out your supervisory duties … Thus, I will not sustain the charge or the claims … and this charge is hereby withdrawn.”
Ms. Naeem returned to work at the Urdu Service days later.
Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel David Seide, who represented Ms. Neem in this matter, said:
“Justice prevailed. Tabinda Naeem never did anything wrong. As a legal and practical matter, it is as if nothing happened. It has been our honor and privilege to represent Ms. Naeem; we applaud her perseverance and courage.”
Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.