A Finnish investigative journalist says the U.S. State Department rescinded the International Women of Courage Award given to her because she repeatedly criticized President Trump, Foreign Policy magazine reported on Thursday.
Jessikka Aro, who according to the magazine has faced down death threats and harassment over her work exposing Russia’s propaganda machine long before the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, was initially notified by the State Department in January that she would be receiving the journalism award, only to have those plans scrapped due to what an agency spokesperson called a “regrettable error.”
“We regret this error. We admire Ms. Aro’s achievements as a journalist, which were the basis of U.S. Embassy Helsinki’s nomination,” a spokesperson told the magazine.
But an unnamed State Department official familiar with the discussions told Foreign Policy that Aro’s award was revoked after U.S. officials went through Aro’s social media posts and found she had also frequently criticized the president.
“It created a shitstorm of getting her unceremoniously kicked off the list,” the State Department source told Foreign Policy. “I think it was absolutely the wrong decision on so many levels.”
The decision “had nothing to do with her work,” the official added.
Aro told the magazine that it was “scary” to see the U.S. government allow “pettiness” to affect public decisionmaking.
“[When] I was informed about the withdrawal out of the blue, I felt appalled and shocked,” Aro told the magazine. “The reality in which political decisions or presidential pettiness directs top U.S. diplomats’ choices over whose human rights work is mentioned in the public sphere and whose is not is a really scary reality.”