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Committee Expected to Report Legislation

(WASHINGTON) – The U.S. Government must do more to counter misinformation overseas about American policies and culture or risk undermining its influence in the world, the two leaders of the House International Relations Committee have warned. U.S. Representatives Henry J. Hyde (R-IL) and Tom Lantos (D-CA) will introduce the Freedom Promotion Act of 2002 to begin rebuilding a mass communications infrastructure to explain American policies and culture to the world.

“Public diplomacy—which consists of systematic efforts to communicate not with foreign governments but with the people themselves—has a central role to play in the task of making the world safer for the just interests of the United States, its citizens, and its allies,” said Hyde, chairman of the committee.

“If we are to be successful in our broader foreign policy goals, America’s effort to engage the peoples of the world must assume a more prominent place in the planning and execution of our foreign policy,” Hyde said, adding, “The task of countering misinformation and propaganda regarding the United States is a never-ending one, but we must go about this task more aggressively and more systematically, rather than simply reacting to crises as they occur.”

Tom Lantos, Ranking Member of the Committee, stated: “Strong public diplomacy is critical to winning the war against terrorism. If we are to prevent future terrorist attacks, we must launch a concerted campaign to win over people across the globe who are subjected to anti-American misinformation and hate. Unfortunately, we have been out-gunned, out-manned and out-maneuvered in the information war for too long. This bill strengthens our hand as we wage this fight by streamlining our public diplomacy apparatus without sacrificing the independence and credibility of VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and other vital international broadcasting networks. Dramatic increases in funding for public diplomacy are also required, and I will continue to push for these in the months ahead.”

The legislation reshapes critical elements of the State Department, including new authority to the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, new requirements for the development of a comprehensive strategy for official communications overseas, and new requirements that hiring and promotions within the department be based in part on public diplomacy experience. It also reorganizes U.S. international broadcast services, including establishment of the International Broadcasting Agency to oversee the Voice of America.

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