West Virginia(US): Following her courageous report revealing the alleged mistreatment of disabled people by the state’s health service, a journalist from West Virginia was fired last month.
In the weeks before she was fired from her part-time position at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Amelia Ferrell Knisely claimed that she had received a warning to stop investigating claims that the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources was withholding information about the treatment of disabled people in state care.
She tweeted on December 28 that she had been fired from WVPB “last week after threats from DHHR about my reporting on DHHR’s abuse of individuals with disabilities.”
A month ago, Knisely reported that a disability rights organisation had accused the government of not being able to properly aid disabled people.
The group claimed that the state was “‘patient dumping’ or “warehousing patients” by permitting them to remain in institutions unnecessarily.
She also covered a letter written by Republican Senate President Craig Blair to Governor Jim Justice requesting an official investigation into the accusations.
Leaders at the Health and Human Resources department “threatened to tarnish” WVPB, a publicly financed television and radio network, according to the sacked reporter.
She said, the press must hold government organisations responsible.
“It must be emphasized that these events followed my reporting on the mistreatment of people with disabilities, who are in state care,” she said in her tweet.
She claimed the order came from WVPB Executive Director Butch Antolini, the former communications director for the Justice.
Antolini took over in 2021 after his predecessor was fired when Justice reorganised the agency’s board of directors. Justice had a history of attempting to cut the $4 million in yearly state financing for WVPB.
Knisely has not received a response from Antolini, but other authorities have rejected any attempts to sway media coverage.
Knisely was not fired, according to William H. File III, the chairman of the West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority, and is still on the station’s payroll.
Antolini “was not coerced or pressured by anyone,” he said.
Knisely asserts that the state requested a “full retraction” from her on a report she submitted in November, just one month after joining WVPB.
Eric Douglas, her news director, informed her that she could no longer cover the state’s Health and Human Resources department because the state threatened to damage the network’s reputation, even though that didn’t actually happen.
On December 15, Knisely complained to human resources about interference with her reporting; yet, five days later,
she learned that part-time jobs were being cut. Around that time, her key card and email stopped functioning.