Hughes heads Voice of America

John Hughes, former editor and Pulitzer prize-winning foreign correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, was named by President Reagan to head the Voice of America (VOA).

He replaces James Conkling, who resigned, citing frustration with ''the way government activities work.'' As head of the network that beams news broadcasts worldwide, Mr. Conkling - appointed by the Reagan administration less than a year ago - was pressured by right-wing groups to make the VOA more aggressively anti-communist and by liberals to uphold the network's adherence to impartiality.

''I regret that the debate has taken on a political coloration,'' said Mr. Hughes. Dialogue on the VOA's role ''should be on a professional basis,'' he said, ''to insure that the content is totally fair and objective.''

But citing the VOA's ''editorial role'' as outlined in its charter, Mr. Hughes said the broadcasts should ''articulate clearly . . . the foreign policy of the US,'' which he says now ''is more assertive than that of previous administrations.''

Most recently Mr. Hughes was associate director for programming of VOA's parent organization, the International Communications Agency. He takes over immediately as acting director for VOA, pending Congressional approval.

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