Trump admin cut funding to OTF, a non-profit that supports protesters in places like Hong Kong, Lebanon, and Iran
- Dave DeCamp
Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee grilled Michael Pack, who President Trump recently appointed to head the US government’s state propaganda arm, the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
Pack was appointed in June and started a big shakeup at the US state media outlets run by the USAGM, like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. Pack fired senior staffers, pushed out management, and froze funding.
During last week’s hearing, Democrats and Republicans on the committee teamed up to attack Pack for his purges. But what seemed more important to Congress and former USAGM officials was Pack’s move to freeze funds to the Open Technology Fund (OTF). The OTF was formed in 2012 and operated as part of Radio Free Asia for seven years. In 2019, the OTF became an independent non-profit, although it is financed by US taxpayer dollars through the USAGM.
According to former USAGM officials and OTF board members, the OTF supports protesters in other nations across the world. “In many places around the globe, OTF quietly is providing support to protesters,” said Grant Turner, the former USAGM chief financial officer, who Pack removed in August. “So the Hong Kong protesters are protecting their identities from surveillance by OTF tools; protesters in Iran; we’ve seen it in Beirut,” Turner said.
Ambassador Karen Kornbluh, who sits on the board of the OTF, also testified and spoke of how the OTF helps protest movements. “OTF has a long history of supporting internet freedom efforts, and was poised to expand its efforts in Hong Kong,” Kornbluh said. “It was going to serve support for circumvention tools and expand support for digital training.” …