Finnish investigative journalist Jessikka Aro has worked at exposing the Russian propaganda machine for years- long before the 2016 U.S. elections, according to Foreign Policy. In January, the U.S. State Department told Aro she would be receiving the International Women of Courage Award, a prestigious honor which would be presented by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Only a few weeks later, the award offer was rescinded.
A spokesperson for the State Department said the award was rescinded due to a “regrettable error.” Yet, both Aro and U.S. officials say that the award was revoked after Aro’s social media posts were inspected and it was found that she often criticized President Trump.
One U.S. diplomatic source familiar with the internal deliberations said, “It created a shitstorm of getting her unceremoniously kicked off the list. I think it was absolutely the wrong decision on so many levels.” The decision “had nothing to do with her work.”
In an email, the State Department said that Aro was “incorrectly notified” that she was being given the award, and that the mistake resulted from “a lack of coordination in communications with candidates and our embassies.”
“We regret this error. We admire Ms. Aro’s achievements as a journalist, which were the basis of U.S. Embassy Helsinki’s nomination,” the spokesperson said.
Officials speculate that the decision to revoke Aro’s award came from lower-level officials who were wary of the optics. The incident emphasizes how uncomfortable the government has become with dealings with its critics.
Aro said she was caught by surprise when she was notified that her award and trip to the U.S. had been cancelled.