BBG Watch Commentary
Lyudmila Alekseyeva (alternative spelling: Alexeyeva, Alexeeva), a veteran defender of human rights and a prominent Russian opposition figure, has died in Moscow at the age of 91. An obituary posted in English on the Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) website failed to mention (last checked on December 9, 2018) that Lyudmila Alekseyeva played a critical role in defending a large group of Radio Liberty Russian Service journalists after they were fired by RFE/RL’s senior management without any prior warning in 2012. RFE/RL is managed by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), previously known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). As of December 9, USAGM had no statement on the death of Lyudmila Alekseyeva who played a historic role as a human rights defender in the Soviet Union and in Russia and was a frequent guest on RFE/RL and Voice of America (VOA) Russian programs. VOA is also managed by USAGM. VOA English website had an AP obituary for Lyudmila Alekseyeva which also did not mention her role in defending Radio Liberty Russian Service journalists. A short VOA Russian Service obituary posted December 8 also did not mention Lyudmila Alekseyeva’s defense of Radio Liberty’s Russian staff in its dispute with RFE/RL’s management in 2012-2013.
For many months in 2012 and 2013, Alekseyeva boycotted Radio Liberty and wrote protest letters to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Congress demanding that the fired Russian journalists we rehired. Other Russian human rights activists, as well as political leaders including Mikhail Gorbachev, also wrote protest letters and supported the fired Radio Liberty team. One of the fired RFE/RL Russian journalists was human rights reporter Kristina Gorelik who at the time the management made its announcement of the mass dismissal was recording an interview with Lyudmila Alekseyeva.
After months of protests and the eventual resignations of senior RFE/RL mannagers, BBG Board asked veteran journalist Kevin Klose to be new RFE/RL president, a post he had held once before. For several months, BBG Watch reported extensively on the RFE/RL management crisis and published statements issued the fired Radio Liberty Russian journalists—-who became known as Radio Liberty-in-Exile—and their many defenders.
Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was later assassinated, expressed his support for the Radio Liberty Russian Service group of fired journalists.
BBG Members Ambassador Victor Ashe, Susan McCue and Michael Meehan traveled to Moscow to meet with Lyudmila Alekseyeva. Kevin Klose rehired most of the previously dismissed Radio Liberty broadcasters. Alekseyeva resumed her participation in Radio Liberty Russian programs.
Lyudmila Alekseyeva, Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Gorbachev, former RFE/RL Russian Service director Mario Corti and many other Russians and Americans, including former BBG members—Ambassador Victor Ashe, Susan McCue, and Michael Meehan—deserve recognition for coming to the defense of the fired Radio Liberty journalists during the 2012-2013 management-created crisis.
In 2015, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, who then chaired Moscow Helsinki Group, wrote another letter addressed to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the U.S. State Department and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty management, in which she defended Radio Liberty Russian Service human rights reporter Kristina Gorelik.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media is again mired in new scandals and controversies at RFE/RL and VOA, including an independent study showing bias and pro-Iranian regime propaganda in VOA Persian Service and RFE/RL’s Radio Farda programs to Iran and the forced suspension by senior agency executives of the “VOA Mandarin Five” China Branch journalists and the proposed firing of VOA Mandarin Service Chief Dr. Sasha Gong.
Originally posted July 26, 2013
BBG Watch Commentary
After a long absence to protest the mass firing of Radio Liberty journalists in September 2012, Russian human rights leader Lyudmila Alexeeva is again appearing in live interviews on the U.S.-funded media freedom station in Russia.
After the management that ordered the firings was replaced, the new acting Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president Kevin Klose has rehired some of the dismissed journalists. The interview dealing with current political issues in Russia was conducted by one of them, RFE/RL human rights reporter Kristina Gorelik.
Dozens of experienced and highly respected Radio Liberty journalists in Russia were fired without any warning last September and without being allowed to say good bye to their radio and online audiences of many years.
Lyudmila Alexeeva witnessed the firings as she was being interviewed at the time by Kristina Gorelik at the Radio Liberty Moscow office. Gorelik was among those journalists who had been fired. Their anti-corruption investigative journalism programs were canceled.
Alexeeva and other Russian human rights activists and democratic political leaders immediately protested the firings.
Mikhail Gorbachev expressed his concern.
Alexeeva and others wrote letters to the White House, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to members of Congress.
Alexeeva also confronted members of the previous RFE/RL management team during a meeting in Moscow and condemned their treatment of Radio Liberty employees. She suspended her regular weekly human rights program on Radio Liberty in protest against the actions of the then management of the station.
As the BBG’s executive staff in the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) in Washington stood idly by, the public relations and public diplomacy crisis in Russia over the firings and programming changes continued to escalate until members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors led by former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe intervened. They selected Kevin Klose, a former NPR executive who once also led RFE/RL, to serve as acting RFE/RL president for one year after members of the former management team had resigned.
Two BBG governors, Susan McCue and Michael Meehan, traveled to Moscow with Kevin Klose and met with Alexeeva, other human rights activists, and some of the fired journalists.
A few days later, visiting Secretary of State John Kerry, who served as an ex officio member of the BBG, also met with Alexeeva. Victor Ashe also met with her on his later visit to Moscow.
Victor Ashe was presented Glasnost Award from the President of the Glasnost Defense Foundation Alexey Simonov as a “token of gratitude for his defense of glasnost in Russia.” Ashe responded that he was grateful but accepted it on behalf of those who stayed the course during the unfortunate time of the prior Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty leadership. “What happened was terrible for Radio Liberty but it is now over and we must concentrate on the future,” Ashe said.
Top IBB officials who allowed the crisis in Russia to get out of control are still in their positions in Washington. Victor Ashe may soon depart his post due to what many suspect was a bureacratic revenge for his defense of Radio Liberty journalists and criticism of former RFE/RL and current IBB officials who allowed the crisis in Moscow to happen. Some former BBG members who had strongly supported the former RFE/RL management which conducted the firings resigned for reasons they said were unrelated to the Radio Liberty meltdown.
Many of the fired journalists have been rehired by Kevin Klose. Lyudmila Alexeeva is once again appearing in live interviews on Radio Liberty. She deserves admiration for her steadfast fight against injustice. Thank you Ms. Alexeeva.