The Superior Court in Washington, D.C., has ruled that actions taken by the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s chief executive against the board of the Open Technology Fund are invalid.The court ruling came in response to a July lawsuit regarding who controls the OTF. The suit was filed by the office of the District of Columbia’s attorney general under the district’s Nonprofit Corporations Act.OTF, an independent, nonprofit grantee of USAGM, In one of his first acts as chief executive of USAGM, the federal agency that oversees Voice of America and other networks and grantees, including OTF, Michael Pack fired the heads of the networks and OTF Chief Executive Libby Liu and replaced their boards. The director and deputy director of Voice of America resigned two days before Pack joined the agency.The D.C. court ruling on Wednesday said Pack’s replacement of OTF’s board of directors was unauthorized and any actions taken by the new board were invalid. It stated that the original members were the valid board.The USAGM did not respond to VOA’s request for comment.A copy of the FILE – Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 24, 2020.“From the start, Michael Pack has tried to turn USAGM into an arm of the White House by obliterating its independence and objectivity. I’m glad the court ruling invalidated his attempts to dissolve the Open Technology Fund board and supported the independence that USGAM and its predecessors have stood for,” Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said.“Protecting free speech and freedom of the press is essential in a democracy, and this week’s court ruling is a step in the right direction to reverse the damage done by Pack and other pro-Trump appointees,” Murphy said.The senator on Friday released details of proposed legislation to increase protections for journalists from political interference.In a release, his office said the proposal came in response to allegations that officials at USAGM had launched a politically motivated investigation into VOA’s White House bureau chief, Steven Herman.In an Oct. 5 statement to VOA about the allegations of an investigation, USAGM said it would not comment because it involved the leak of privileged information. “This is an internal VOA management issue being handled by the VOA leadership,” USAGM said.Changes proposedThe legislation proposes amending the U.S. International Broadcasting Act, which established the board that later became USAGM, to more explicitly protect journalists at the agency’s networks from influence by U.S. government officials, including investigations into private political views.It would also require the chief executive to protect journalists from interference by government agencies or officials; ensure employees are judged on their professional standards and not political views made in private; and authorize the inspector general to investigate any potential infringements or attempts to pressure journalists.

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