West Virginia Journalist Let Go After Reporting on Abuse Allegations

Amelia Ferrell Knisely via AP

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A West Virginia reporter said she was fired for doing her job and reporting the news. Amelia Ferrell Knisely was working as a journalist at West Virginia Public Broadcasting and has been working on a story on the alleged abuse of people with disabilities within the agency that runs West Virginia’s foster care and psychiatric facilities.

She was told by her employer to stop. Not because the story was wrong or unfair, she added, but because those running the Department of Health and Human Resources “threatened to discredit” Knisely’s employer, a radio and television network funded by the public.

Soon thereafter, Knisely learned her position had been eliminated.

Amelia Knisely Speaks Out

She said she learned of the order to stop reporting the story from her news director, who told her WVPB Executive Director Butch Antolini wanted it squashed. Antolini is the former communications director for W.Va. Gov. Jim Justice.

Interestingly, politicians from both sides have questioned the Knisely situation — including Republican Senate President Craig Blair and Democratic Party Chair Mike Pushkin.

“There’s a very clear difference between not liking what the media reports and actively working to silence them,” Blair tweeted.

Pushkin added that her reporting on “the glaring issues at DHHR” was “detailed, in-depth, and most importantly true.”

West Virginia Public Broadcasting news director Eric Douglas confirmed to The Associated Press that he was instructed to tell Knisely she would no longer be reporting on DHHR, and that Antolini directed him to do so.

Knisely tweeted that she has since been hired by The Register-Herald in Beckley, W.Va., to cover the state’s upcoming legislative session. That coverage will in fact include the happenings within the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources.

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