BBG – USAGM Watch Commentary
“A Western voice has tilted toward post-Soviet authoritarian leader in Central Asia, say diplomats and the network.” This is how Jessica Donati who covers foreign affairs and the State Department for the Wall Street Journal described the latest scandal at the U.S. taxpayer-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). The U.S. tax-funded media outlet is managed by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), formerly known as the Broadcadting Board of Governors (BBG). USAGM is still being led by Obama administration CEO John F. Lansing and his management team which does not appear to be on its way to be replaced anytime soon even after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for a leadership change at the federal agency. The confirmation of President Trump’s nominee Michael Pack to become the new USAGM CEO has been stalled in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many months.
SEE: U.S. Broadcaster Under Scrutiny for Disseminating Autocratic Propaganda. By Jessica Donati, Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2019.
A blistering critique of RFE/RL and USAGM leadership was also published by Katherine Khashimova Long in Columbia Journalism Review (CJR).
SEE: In Tajikistan, America’s beacon for a free press may have been corrupted. By Katherine Khashimova Long, Columbia Journalism Review, April 17, 2019.
A few weeks earlier, CJR published what could be described as a puff piece on RFE/RL. The CJR article, “The US still supports journalism around the world, even if Donald Trump doesn’t” did not provide any hints of serious management problems at RFE/RL and USAGM.
According to a later statement by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, a mid-level manager and the RFE/RL Tajik Service director “have announced their retirements,” although the latest RFE/RL official press release, dated April 2, 2019, did not mention any programming crises or management problems at RFE/RL Tajik Service or at other RFE/RL Central Asian services.
Daisy Sindelar, Acting President of RFE/RL, admitted in a statement issued on March 25, 2019 that “During the past few months, allegations have been made regarding the editorial and professional integrity of the work of RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi.” Sindelar also said that “The allegations that have been shared with us range from claims of pro-government bias to corruption, mismanagement, and state interference in editorial decisionmaking.”
The latest RFE/RL press release’s title “RFE/RL Central Asia Directors To Resign” was somewhat at odds with the actual text that “Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) regional director for Central Asia and Tajik Service director announced their retirements,” but the new press release did not specifically acknowledge the existence of any management problems. There were only hints and vague references to “allegations” and failure “to live up to RFE/RL’s standards” in an earlier RFE/RL press release titled “Message from RFE/RL’s Acting President: Tajik Service.”
It is unclear from the latest RFE/RL press release whether RFE/RL Central Asia Directors resigned or retired, or whether it means the same thing.
What is clear is that in keeping with the longstanding tradition of senior and mid-level RFE/RL management, retiring managers have received generous praise from RFE/RL’s top leadership, which–also in keeping with tradition–took no responsibility for the crisis.
Former RFE/RL investigative reporter, award-winning journalist Khadija Ismaiyilova who had resigned from the organization and criticized its senior management, wrote on her Facebook Page which has over 30,000 followers that RFE/RL editors in Prague rejected reports critical of the authoritarian regime in Tajikistan. Before quitting RFE/RL, she had experienced similar problems with her reports from Azerbaijan. RFE/RL Kazakh Service journalists reported the same problems. RFE/RL Russian Service is also reluctant to publish investigative reports.
KHADIJA ISMAYIL: “I trained journalists of radio Ozodi [RFE/RL Tajik Service] several years ago. They made it clear that stories on the high level corruption wouldn’t pass the editors in Prague. So we had to concentrate on writing techniques and storytelling. I wrote about concerns to management, but never got a response.
Some reporters of Ozodi later attended my other trainings. They were talented and skillful, but never published investigations they were able to start during the training course. It is sad that the media freedom is restricted in the US Congress funded media.”
John Lansing, the embattled CEO and Director of the U.S Agency for Global Media, an Obama administration holdover appointee, has made no public comment on how he, as the head of the federal agency which oversees RFE/RL, the Voice of America (VOA) and several other U.S. tax-funded media outlets, may be ultimately responsible for any recent scandals. Lansing had selected the former head of RFE/RL, ignored multiple past warnings published by BBG – USAGM Watch, as well as private e-mails, and kept the management team responsible for multiple crises.
Management problems at RFE/RL and at other USAGM entities have been intensifying and affecting multiple language services, including RFE/RL’s Radio Farda Broadcasting to Iran and VOA’s Persian Service.
A just released study by the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) concludes that the track record of Iran media reform at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), previously known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is “mixed – at least so far” and “a number of necessary changes remain unimplemented or unexplored.” A study undertaken by the American Foreign Policy Council delivered in the Fall of 2017, and formally published by the BBG, showed that the federal agency under its current management “on the whole, perpetuated to audiences the appearance of pro-regime propaganda, rather than objective reporting, on the part of both the VOA and Farda.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called recently for a leadership change at the agency but did not refer to any specific scandals at USAGM, VOA, Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), or RFE/RL. While already described in 2013 by the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “practically defunct,” the tax-funded media entities experienced even more serious programming and management problems since John Lansing joined the agency as CEO in 2015.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I want to come back, though, to the BBG. It’s a challenge. It still has a leadership challenge, because we all know the history of BBG board and how it came to be fractious and had become political. We still have not resolved that situation. And I would urge to get a CEO of that organization in place so that the BBG will have the right leadership so they can do the traditional mission – perhaps in a different information environment than we did back in the Cold War, but can perform its function in a way that is important and noble, and reflects the enormous resources that are – that American taxpayers have put towards that. I’m very concerned about it.
No Mention of Problems or Blame
The latest RFE/RL press release says that “As Regional Director, Abbas Djavadi, an RFE/RL veteran of 33 years, has overseen the operations of RFE/RL’s Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek language services. Djavadi served previously as the company’s Azerbaijani Service director, and helped establish RFE/RL’s Persian-language service, Radio Farda and Radio Mashaal, the Pashto-language service for the tribal regions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.”
The press release also says that “Sojida Djakhfarova was appointed head of the Tajik Service in 2009, after previously directing the company’s Uzbek Service and working as Dushanbe bureau chief and a Moscow correspondent. Under her leadership, the Tajik Service in 2018 logged 21 million visits and 61 million page views on digital platforms and earned distinction as the company’s most popular language service on YouTube, with 550,000 subscribers and 200 million views.”
The generous praise for the retiring RFE/RL managers came from what was forwarded to us as a copy of a separate e-mail sent to “ALL STAFF” by a senior RFE/RL executive.
ATTRIBUTED TO A SENIOR RFE/RL EXECUTIVE: This is to inform you that Abbas Djavadi, Regional Director for Central Asia, has decided to retire. This is a decision that Abbas and I have been discussing for more than a year, and the time has come to make it public.
Abbas has been with RFE/RL for 33 years. I have immense respect for his work as Regional Director. He has achieved outstanding results in shepherding five language services through their transition from traditional radio to a full range of 21st-century multimedia content. In 1998, Abbas established our first operations in Persian, and went on to help establish our presence in Afghanistan. He also served as director of our Azeri and Tajik services, and was appointed Associate Director in 2007. We have worked closely together over the last 12 years, and I am grateful for this.
Abbas, thank you. All the best.
A senior RFE/RL executive also wrote in his e-mail to staff as presented to us:
ATTRIBUTED TO A SENIOR RFE/RL EXECUTIVE: I also want to let you know that Sojida Djakhfarova has decided to retire as well. Sojida joined RFE/RL in 1996 as a Moscow-based correspondent, and became Dushanbe bureau chief a year later. In 2000, Sojida moved to Prague, becoming head of the Uzbek Service in 2005 and moving to lead the Tajik Service in 2009. Her service’s success in multimedia is evident in the numbers: 21 million visits and 61 million page views on digital platforms. On YouTube, the Tajik Service reached 550,000 subscribers, and with 200 million views in 2018 was at the top of RFE/RL’s YouTube operations. Time and again, whenever we were faced with problems, Sojida would tell me: “I’ll always do what’s best for the Service.”
Sojida, thank you, and all the best.
Critics have pointed to this RFE/RL Tajik Service news report as a typical example of how not just the Tajik Service but also some of the other Central Asian language services practiced journalism which could only be seen as highly supportive of authoritarian rulers.
READ: RFE/RL Tajik Service – One Scandal Too Many Under USAGM CEO John Lansing, BBG Watch, March 28, 2019.
READ: Open letter: What is going on at RFE/RL’s Tajik service? Multiple investigations have revealed how Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service systematically cooperates with the country’s repressive Rahmon regime. This needs to change. Open Democracy, March 28, 2019
READ: US-funded broadcaster under scrutiny for enabling Tajikistan’s strongman rule. Tajiks read Radio Ozodi as Washington’s word. Eurasianet, March 26, 2019.
Dear BBG Watch,
We, ordinary journalists of the RFE/RL, read and follow carefully how you professionally analyze a weak and openly unprofessional pieces in the articles of our Central Newsroom. Indeed, when top managers of the Radio are immersed in the abuse of their power, work simulation and the creation of the Potemkin villages, ordinary journalists and editors respond to them by performance decline. Two years under … “interim management” became a period of deep stagnation, like what we had in times of Leonid Brezhnev. Brezhnev stagnation, as is well known, led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. You noticed it very precisely and fairly raise alarm over anti-Semitism and complicity in Putin’s propaganda in the articles of our Central Newsroom, which you read in English.
However, these Newsroom’s articles are just the top of the iceberg. You cannot even imagine what an open whitewashing of the post-Soviet dictators occurs in other RFE/Rl’s language services, because you can read only in English.[BBG – USAGM: some of our reporters read and speak Russian and other Slavic languages but not Central Asian languages.] The decline of ethics and trampling of standards of the Western journalism led to the fact that the content in many services has became uncontrolled. The services’ directors [are] engaged in the pursuit of…websites [statistics]…audience drop due to the poor quality of journalism, they compensate by speculative tricks…including paid advertising in Facebook or tabloids techniques. Meanwhile, some of the services’ directors de facto have privatized control over content, turning it to serve authoritarian regimes most likely in order to get profits. At the same time they breed nepotism and clannishness… [The management] knows about this but covers [up for] them, which is not clear why. For example, this happens in the Armenian and Tajik services.
Here are some articles that you can translate at least with the help of Google translator and see that there is a glorification of authoritarian presidents. There’s no balance, no context, no objective analysis, no any distancing from totalitarian propaganda.
RFE/RL journalists critical of their managers and the lack of leadership and oversight from the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the agency’s CEO wrote in September 2016 to BBG Watch about RFE/RL Tajik Service report “23 years of leadership of Emomali Rahmon in 500 photos.”
Dissident RFE/RL journalists wrote that this was “a report about the presentation in China of the photo album about Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.”
There is coverage in the spirit of North Korea’s press.
There is not word in the RFE/RL report that Rahmon is authoritarian and corrupt president.
END OF COMMENTARY FROM RFE/RL JOURNALISTS CRITICAL OF THE RFE/RL and USAGM MANAGEMENT
Their September 2016 e-mail to BBG Watch included links to RFE/RL Tajik and Armenian Service reports and indicated that the problem is widespread among the RFE/RL English Newsroom and many of RFE/RL’s foreign language services providing media coverage to countries under authoritarian rule.
RFE/RL TAJIK SERVICE
Ноябрь 20, 2015
В Китае прошла презентация фотоальбома «Эмомали Рахмон. Миссия созидания».
GOOGLE TRANSLATE OF RFE/RL TAJIK SERVICE REPORT “23 years of leadership of Emomali Rahmon in 500 photos”
November 20, 2015
In China, the presentation of the album “Emomali Rahmon.”
On November 19, a presentation of the photo album “Emomali Rakhmon.”
Opening the event, Van Shucheng, editor-in-chief of the foreign edition of the Renmin Ribao newspaper, said he saw President Emomali Rakhmon as “the national hero of Tajikistan, who, having turned the tide at a critical moment for the country, managed to end the civil war and achieve national reconciliation.” We see the great president who, with unsurpassed mastery of political art, with a firm hand controls the country, raising the country’s economy, improving the well-being of the people. We see a person who loves the people and enjoys great love and respect among the people. We see the head of state, who thinks globally, stands for cooperation and at the same time looks to the future, ”said the high guest. “The album shows how President Rahmon has come a long way from the young director of the state farm to the outstanding leader of Tajikistan; his persistent struggle for prosperity, harmony and stability of the country. The photos show a tireless, purposeful president, working tirelessly at his post, ”said Wang Shucheng. He highlighted the great contribution of the President to the establishment and strengthening of Chinese-Tajik relations. “Each photo is unique and historical in its own way. Particularly touching and exciting are the photos illustrating the personal friendship and trust between Emomali Rahmon and PRC Chairman Xi Jinping. We can judge about close and friendly relations between countries and the deep personal friendship between the heads of the two states from these photographs of exciting imagination. From the photographs, we can also judge the great care and attention that the President pays to good-neighborly relations with China, the development of full-blooded cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres. We can say that the photo album is a living encyclopedia of Sino-Tajik friendship, as well as a fascinating journey to a wonderful and beautiful neighboring country – Tajikistan. ”
Li Sikuy, Secretary General of the Chinese People’s Friendship Society with Overseas, drew the attention of the participants to the fact that “during Tajikistan’s historic march along the difficult path of strengthening its independence, President Emomali Rahmon bravely took high responsibility for the fate of the Tajik people, brought peace and national reconciliation to the Tajik house, led the country on the path of prosperity and progress. For twenty years, Tajikistan, under the leadership of its leader, has achieved outstanding success in the economy and the social sphere, has become an active participant in international life. The photo album clearly demonstrates the emergence of an outstanding son of the Tajik people, who traveled from director of economy to head of state. The book is a wonderful, beautifully executed edition that gives you the opportunity to get acquainted with the bright and eventful life of the president, a great friend of China, as well as Tajikistan, our good and great neighbor. ”
Yin Shuguang, a well-known Chinese international journalist and deputy editor-in-chief of the Wyunheibao daily newspaper Wenhuibao, when introducing a photo album on behalf of the compilers, noted that he had studied the president’s biography with great excitement and enthusiasm. “The group of authors worked for about eight months and from 500 selected 500 unique photos related to the different stages of the life and work of President Emomali Rahmon. Turning over each of the 300 pages of the album, the reader will be able to get acquainted with the young years of the leader and hero of the Tajik people, his efforts to establish peace and national harmony in Tajikistan, the transformation and sustainable development of the country, high activity in the international arena. I love the picturesque and unique corner of the land – Tajikistan and I have a clear idea that President Rakhmon is an outstanding person and national leader, an old friend of the Chinese people and a personal friend of the PRC President Xi Jinping. I was particularly impressed by the photograph, where the leaders of the two neighboring states walk across the Tajik land, holding hands. This is the most vivid illustration of personal friendship and deep trust between our two countries. I hope that our humble work – a photo album, like a small brick, will contribute to the great and indestructible building of Chinese-Tajik friendship and cooperation. ”
Dr. Chen Lizi, President of the Hong Kong Silk Road Economic Development Center, noted that “the photo album will allow the Chinese reader to penetrate deeper into the daily difficult, intense and at the same time interesting work of the President of Tajikistan. Participating in the preparation of the album, we sincerely wished that as many people from mainland China and Hong Kong learn about Tajikistan and deepen their knowledge about this beautiful and a rich country with ancient history and enormous potential for all-round development. ”
“I often visit Tajikistan, where, communicating with kind and cordial people, I feel at home. The country’s successes, its stable economic development and prestige in the world are rightfully associated by the Tajik people with the name of their unchanging leader, Emomali Rahmon, who led the republic during the devastation of the civil war and confidently leads it to prosperity, ”said Chen Litsi.
“The geographical position of Tajikistan makes it an important transportation hub for communication with Central and South Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It seems to me that the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, today is much more attractive than London. Unfortunately, many people in China and Hong Kong still know little about Tajikistan, which, through the efforts of President Rahmon, has become a stable and dynamically developing country, attractive to outside investors. I would like more companies from Hong Kong to invest in the economy of Tajikistan. To this end, Kaisun Energy Group co-organized the conference “Silk Road Strategy: Tajikistan” (Silk Road Strategy: Focus on Tajikistan) in Hong Kong, during which the key speakers were the Ambassador of Tajikistan to the PRC R. Alimov and the Minister of Finance of Hong Kong John Tsang Chun-va (John Tsang Chun-wah). The conference aroused great interest among business and academia of Hong Kong. I am confident that under the leadership of President Rahmon, Tajikistan has a bright future, ”said Chen Lizi.
The Secretary General of the SCO, Dmitry Mezentsev, particularly noted the contribution of President Emomali Rakhmon, who was at the very beginning of the creation of the organization, to strengthen its potential, his concern that the SCO plays an effective and significant role in international affairs.
In his speech, the Ambassador of Tajikistan in China, Rashid Alimov, drew the attention of the participants of the event to the fact that there are many examples in modern history when prosperous states as a result of poor management were declining; when, due to an internal conflict in a stable society, the unquenchable fire of civil war flared up, and happy citizens became unhappy. At the same time, the ambassador noted, “there are single cases when a young leader unknown in broad circles could lead a country ravaged by civil war, lead it to the broad road of peace and national harmony, stability and progress, win sympathy in the world community. Emomali Rahmon – the personification of such an example. In a tragic moment for the fate of the country, the people entrusted Emomali Rahmon their fate, the fate of young independent Tajikistan. ”
“To do something great, it is necessary to direct all the forces of the soul to the solution of the central task. Such a task was the return of peace to Tajik land. Emomali Rakhmon with his characteristic energy and natural wisdom successfully coped with this task, uniting around him all the healthy forces of society and relying on the support of friends of Tajikistan in the community of nations. The experience of the inter-Tajik settlement has been recognized by the UN as one of the most successful, ”the ambassador stressed. “Reliance on the will of the people, courage, determination, faith in the victory of the human mind and the age-old wisdom of the Tajik people gave them the strength and energy to take responsibility for the fate of the young independent state and become the architect and builder of the new Tajikistan, received international recognition “, – said Rashid Alimov and added:” But not only the tragic circumstances made him a great son of his people. Openness and directness, sincerity and honesty, goodwill and integrity, the ability to protect and promote the national interests of Emomali Rahmon in a short historical period could win national love and build mutually beneficial relations based on mutual respect with the majority of countries of the world. A special place among them is occupied by China – our great and good neighbor, ”the ambassador noted.
“Today President Emomali Rahmon is widely known and enjoys well-deserved authority far beyond the borders of Tajikistan. In the presented album, 500 unique photos recorded only moments from the difficult and eventful life of the Tajik leader. Most of the photos are published for the first time, ”the ambassador said.
Alimov thanked the compilers and publishers of the photo album for their tremendous work in selecting photos in order to show not only the multifaceted state activities of the President of Tajikistan, but also reflect his best human qualities: simplicity and sincerity, accessibility and sincerity in communicating with people, warmth of communication in the family circle. The Ambassador expressed the hope that the photo album “Emomali Rahmon. Creation Mission ”will make a tangible contribution to the cultural and humanitarian cooperation of Tajikistan and China.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan Parviz Davlatzoda, heads of departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Culture of the PRC Liu Bin and Xie Jinying, representatives of ministries and departments, science and culture, state universities and libraries, experts and business communities of China, a number of diplomatic missions accredited in Beijing.
END OF UNOFFICIAL GOOGLE TRANSLATION OF RFE/RL TAJIK SERVICE REPORT “23 years of leadership of Emomali Rahmon in 500 photos”
RFE/RL journalists who are critical of RFE/RL and USAGM management pointed out next that on January 1, 2016, RFE/RL Tajik Service posted a long news report: “Tajik President congratulates people with the New Year 2016″.
“It is all the retelling of a congratulatory message from Rahmon, it is in a style of the Soviet newspaper Pravda published the same messages from the USSR General Secretary Brezhnev,” RFE/RL dissident journalists noted in their September 2016 e-mail to BBG Watch (now BBG – USAGM Watch).
RFE/RL TAJIK SERVICE
Январь 01, 2016
Эмомали Рахмон выступил с телевизионным обращением
Президент Таджикистана Эмомали Рахмон поздравил таджикистанцев с наступившим 2016 годом.
UNOFFICIAL GOOGLE TRANSLATION OF RFE/RL TAJIK SERVICE REPORT “The President of Tajikistan congratulated the population on the New 2016 Year”
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty Tajik Service
January 01, 2016
Emomali Rahmon made a televised address
President of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmon congratulated Tajiks on the coming 2016.
In a televised address, he said that Tajikistan in 2015 had achieved significant results “despite the complication and sensitivity of the situation on the planet and the negative influence of the factors of the global financial and economic crisis.”
“Thanks to the patriotic efforts and diligence of the glorious people of the country, a good creative process consistently continues throughout our country, dozens of new manufacturing enterprises and workshops have been built, thousands of our compatriots are provided with permanent jobs. As a result of the tireless work of experienced and hardworking farmers in the country compared with previous years, the provision of domestic food products to the population has significantly improved and the normal situation in the country’s consumer market has been maintained, ”said the head of state.
He noted that 2015 was also “remembered by the fact that in early March, in an atmosphere of calm and stability, one of the important political events took place, that is, the election of deputies to the highest legislative body of the country Majlisi Oli and local Majlises of people’s deputies.”
“In this important political event, the glorious people of the country took an active part and once again proved that the chosen path of our people is irreversible and sovereign Tajikistan is steadily moving along the path of building a democratic, legal and secular state. I am convinced that the glorious people of Tajikistan will continue, in the name of a bright and happy future for our beloved country, to work with double responsibility, to strive more for ensuring the development of the country and strengthening its economic power, ”Rakhmon said.
According to him, reforms and modernization continued in the sectors of business and investment, industry, agriculture, science, education, culture, health care and other sectors of society, mutually beneficial relations and cooperation of Tajikistan with various countries of the world have expanded.
“The government of the country during 2015, as always, directed all its strengths and aspirations to create favorable conditions for a decent life for the people of the country. Therefore, a number of concrete measures were implemented to address social issues, including to support the needy and vulnerable segments of society, to maximize the involvement of adolescents and young people in high-quality education, to educate them in the spirit of patriotism and high national feeling, as well as to provide people in the country with jobs. . “For the sake of ensuring a quiet life of our people and a bright future for our children, we are committed to continue this policy in the future,” Rakhmon said. – The situation in a rapidly changing world, modern threats and challenges, environmental problems, including climate change, the systematic repetition of natural disasters, etc. encourage us to be more united than ever and never lose our political vigilance. With a high sense of patriotism and self-consciousness, we must protect our paradise from any threats, further develop our Homeland to protect peace, tranquility, political stability, and strengthen national unity. ”
He stated that “with the support of the civilized and creative people of Tajikistan, we will continue to solve the problems existing in our life, we will ensure a decent and happy life for our people.”
“I am convinced that the new 2016 year will leave a noticeable mark in further strengthening the foundations of state independence, national statehood, unity and stability of society, as well as in the improvement of our country. With these good intentions, I sincerely congratulate all the noble, hardworking, happy and proud residents of the country, as well as all foreign compatriots on the occasion of the new 2016, I wish each of you well-being, prosperity, happiness and peace to our beloved Tajikistan, peace, prosperity and progress, ”Rahmon added.
END OF UNOFFICIAL GOOGLE TRANSLATION OF RFE/RL TAJIK SERVICE REPORT “The President of Tajikistan congratulated the population on the New 2016 Year”
April 02, 2019
WASHINGTON — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) regional director for Central Asia and Tajik Service director announced their retirements today, each concluding long careers in journalism in some of the world’s most restrictive countries.
As Regional Director, Abbas Djavadi, an RFE/RL veteran of 33 years, has overseen the operations of RFE/RL’s Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek language services. Djavadi served previously as the company’s Azerbaijani Service director, and helped establish RFE/RL’s Persian-language service, Radio Farda and Radio Mashaal, the Pashto-language service for the tribal regions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Sojida Djakhfarova was appointed head of the Tajik Service in 2009, after previously directing the company’s Uzbek Service and working as Dushanbe bureau chief and a Moscow correspondent. Under her leadership, the Tajik Service in 2018 logged 21 million visits and 61 million page views on digital platforms and earned distinction as the company’s most popular language service on YouTube, with 550,000 subscribers and 200 million views.
In the wake of the announcements, RFE/RL has named Venera Djumataeva, the company’s Kyrgyz Service director, as Acting Regional Director for Central Asia. Salimjon Aioubov, editor of the company’s Central Asia wire service, will serve as Acting Director of the Tajik Service.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to 34 million people in 26 languages and 22 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 2.6 billion times on Facebook and YouTube in FY2018. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
March 25, 2019
During the past few months, allegations have been made regarding the editorial and professional integrity of the work of RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi. The allegations that have been shared with us range from claims of pro-government bias to corruption, mismanagement, and state interference in editorial decisionmaking. RFE/RL does not tolerate any violations of its mission and its code of ethics. Accordingly, in order to determine whether these allegations have merit, we have taken the following steps:
RFE/RL’s Standards Editor has reviewed the Tajik Service’s journalism, with a particular focus on four areas: 1) failure to report objectively on Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and his family; 2) laudatory reporting, of low news value, of the presidential family and top officials; 3) failure to cite Western human rights reports that provided crucial context on key news stories; and 4) prejudicial reporting on the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan. This review found that RFE/RL’s Tajik Service failed to live up to RFE/RL’s standards in respect to all four areas, and we have already taken steps to correct these lapses.
We have also commissioned an independent external editorial review of Tajik Service content. The panelists are regional experts and native Tajik speakers with a strong grounding in Western academic and journalistic standards. Their findings are expected to be complete in early April and will be made public.
Some non-editorial allegations fall beyond the scope of our ability to investigate internally. Earlier this month, RFE/RL asked the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General to investigate those claims. Corrective action will follow any investigation by the OIG, as warranted.
RFE/RL’s Central Asian reporters work in some of the world’s most restrictive environments. Our correspondents are under constant surveillance by security services and openly pressured to avoid scrutiny of top government officials. This month alone, three of our journalists in Kazakhstan have been detained while covering public protests.
RFE/RL’s independent reporting is vital to our audiences living under repressive regimes that have all but silenced dissent. In many countries, RFE/RL is the only alternative to state-run media peddling disinformation and false narratives. Anyone who doubts our commitment to hard-hitting journalism need look no further than Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, where our bureaus have been forcibly closed due to our reporting, and in Russia, where RFE/RL has been declared a foreign agent and our journalists work under constant threat of harassment.
I am committed to resolving this issue in a transparent and comprehensive manner. We at RFE/RL look forward to continuing our important mission of delivering objective news and information to the audiences who need it most.
Acting President, RFE/RL