A report on situation with Democracy Now!
August 10, 2001
To All Supporters of the Pacifica Campaign:
The systematic harassment by Pacifica management against Amy Goodman and her national news show, Democracy Now!, which began more than one year ago, has reached a crisis stage.
On August 2nd, Steve Yasko, the director of national programming, ordered Amy in an official memo to stop signing off each day with the words she has used since the infamous "Christmas Coup" of last year: "From the embattled studios of WBAI, from the studios of the banned and the fired, from the studios of our listeners. I'm Amy Goodman, thanks for listening to another edition of Democracy Now!"
Yasko had been pressuring Amy verbally for weeks to discontinue the sign-off, but she has steadfastly refused his demands as an overt attempt to censor her work. Amy maintains that from a journalistic viewpoint her words are an accurate reflection of the reality at WBAI, where interim station manger Utrice Leid has been conducting a dictatorial purge and a reign of terror against staff, volunteers and listeners who object to her policies. Amy has told management that she will gladly end the sign-off when they stop the banning and the firing, but to remain silent would compromise her integrity.
When Amy continued to use the slogan the next day, Yasko notified her in writing that she was guilty of "deliberate insubordination" and her union representative told her that she could be fired at any moment.
Early this week, Yasko came to New York from Washington and was at the WBAI station moments before Amy and her staff were about to begin a live broadcast of DN!. With Yasko looking on, Leid ordered the DN! staff out of the station's main studio and made them broadcast from an inferior sub-studio, one without a clock and terrible phone lines.
The national show, the most popular and acclaimed in the history of the network, has now been permanently relegated to this sub-studio without any explanation by either Leid or Yasko as to why.
In addition, the expensive new security and surveillance system installed by Leid in recent weeks has created a virtual fascist atmosphere at WBAI. Not only must every employee use a card key to enter the station, but Leid has mandated that each card key be programmed so that they provide access to the station for only certain time periods -- typically one hour before a producer's show begins and one hour after it concludes. Amy and the other employees cannot gain entrance to the station at other times unless Leid approves it.
Even major capitalist corporations don't have such stringent security access and so many surveillance cameras. The work environment at WBAI today more resembles the Pentagon and the CIA than a radical, community radio station. In addition, the open hostility against Amy by Leid's loyal followers at the station has reached the point where some have taken to shouting her down at staff meetings and physically intimidating her to leave. Amy's written complaints to Pacifica management about racist and sexist remarks made by Leid and her loyalists, and the violent undercurrent, are routinely ignored. Her complaints about Leid's sabotaging of Democracy Now! by denying Amy's team access to the main studios have gone unanswered.
Pacifica management has the gall to periodically ask listeners to donate money to support Democracy Now! while it is doing everything possible to make life impossible for the program and its staff. The reason for this contradictory stance is simple -- Amy, like many past and present employees at Pacifica -- refuses to go along with steady destruction of independent programming, free speech and progressive news coverage at the network. And precisely because Democracy Now! is so popular, Leid, Yasko and network director Bessie Wash, are determined to set an example by breaking her.
It is amazing that she has managed to survive and continue producing a quality daily show under such conditions. But no one should have to tolerate such harassment.
In recent weeks, Leid has fired, suspended or banned a new group of WBAI producers, among them Polk Award winning journalist Robert Knight, and producers Bob Lederer and Kathy Davis, and more firings are bound to occur. Just as we in the Pacifica Campaign have warned, Leid, Wash and the corporate clique are seeking to create a macabre new reality on the ground while they desperately attempt to hold off the listeners' intifada for democracy.
This new round of "assassinations" by this renegade clique only reflects how rabid they are becoming the closer they get to defeat.
We don't know what the coming week will bring for Democracy Now!, but we do know that the systematic harassment has become intolerable for Amy and her staff. We urge you to call and/or e-mail Bessie Wash, Utrice Leid and Ken Ford, the vice-chair of the Pacifica Board, as well as other Board members. You can get their contact information on the Pacifica Campaign web site at (See below). Tell them to stop the harassment of Amy immediately. Be civil, but be firm and insistent. And while you're at it, tell Ken Ford to read the handwriting on the wall. Pacifica is not his plaything. It is a peoples' institution and a public trust. His time is up and he should resign.
Stop the Harassment of Democracy Now!
WBAI Acting GM Utrice Leid
Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash
Pacifica Board Vice Chair Ken Ford
Pacifica Board member Wendell L. Johns
Pacifica Board member Valrie Chambers
Cut the below list of email addresses, paste it into the To: line of
Bmwpacifica@aol.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, KenFordPacifica@aol.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, wendell_L_johns@fanniemae.com, Alfigo@aol.com, email@example.com, Valrie.Chambers@mail.tamucc.edu, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pacifica Campaign is a grass-roots organization representing
listeners and staff alike, fighting to preserve Pacifica's 50-year
tradition of progressive, community-based radio.
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