The U.S. Agency for Global Media has named longtime Voice of America journalist Elez Biberaj as VOA’s acting director.
Biberaj’s appointment was announced in an email to staff Tuesday by recently installed USAGM CEO Michael Pack, who also named acting heads of other major U.S.-funded news networks.
Biberaj has been VOA’s Eurasia Division director since 2006, making him responsible for VOA programming for audiences in Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and the Balkans. He also has served as chief of VOA’s Albanian language service.
He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University and is the author of four books, including “Albania in Transition: The Rocky Road to Democracy.”
The appointment comes at a time of heightened public scrutiny over VOA’s editorial independence. Biberaj’s predecessor at VOA, Amanda Bennett, and her deputy, Sandy Sugawara, resigned days before Pack fired the other heads of the U.S.-funded broadcasting networks comprising USAGM earlier this month.
The leadership positions announced to staff Tuesday morning also named Jeffrey Scott Shapiro as principal deputy director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. Shapiro is a lawyer, legal analyst and reporter who worked for the Breitbart news website before becoming an adviser at OCB in 2017.
Parameswaran Ponnudurai, a vice president of programming at Radio Free Asia since 2014, was named acting president of RFA. Kelley Sullivan, a senior executive at Middle East Broadcasting network, was named acting president. And Daisy Sindelar, a senior executive producer with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who helped oversee RFE’s collaboration with VOA on the “Current Time” 24/7 Russian language digital news network, was named acting president of RFE/RL.
Pack was confirmed by the Senate on June 4, nearly two years after being nominated for the job by President Donald Trump. He said the appointments announced Tuesday, “will serve critical roles in allowing our networks to become higher performing and to more effectively serve our audiences.”
Together, the five USAGM news networks , including VOA, have a weekly global audience of more than 350 million listeners, viewers and internet users in 61 languages.