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Sonenshine on freedom of expression

Dealing with messages coming out of America that act against U.S. public diplomacy message. Fmr. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs of the U.S. Tara Sonenshine in conversation with Charlie Firestone of The Aspen Institute.

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Video transcript

I'm Charlie Firestone with the Aspen Institute here with Tara Sun and shine but then you have a situation like a minister who decides that it would be a good idea to have quran burnings something that really is apparently very counter to the American message abroad and yet that's the message that goes out to the world how can the American government that believes in freedom of expression and the American people understand that this might be a portent but its freedom of expression how can it deal with a message that comes out from America that is so counter to the message they want to portray one of the greatest challenges to practicing public diplomacy is separating out good intentions and bad actors and that happens often when frankly the government policy might be not attractive to a receiving audience or it happens when some part of America does something that is not the American government while I was there we had a video go viral that was very anti Muslim it was not produced by the United States government was not produced by Hollywood it was produced by one single producer and it led to embassies being torched and as public diplomats we needed to step in and say we need to make it very clear very quickly at a very high level that that is not the US government that our flag is not on that piece of film so it becomes a daily challenge to ensure that your messages are clearly authenticated from where they come and then to explain that freedom of expression sometimes goes awry I alluded to it very briefly but the difference between say Voice of America and Radio Free Europe what is perceived as the American message I mean Voice of America has also been a journalistic organization but the role of surrogate journalism versus getting that message the official word of the United States out the Russians figured out very early on that they needed to combat our public diplomacy so what did they do they tried to shut down our USAID offices they tried to limit the number of radio free journalists or voice of American journalists they try to minimize our presence and maximize their Russian television presence