BBG Watch Commentary
In response to an invitation sent by Radio Liberty in Exile to members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to attend or to watch live online a special event being organized in Moscow by fired Radio Liberty journalists and their supporters to mark the 60th anniversary of Russian broadcasting, BBG Governor Victor Ashe issued a statement in which he apologized on his own behalf for what happened to dozens of reporters taken off the air and dismissed by the previous management of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
Radio Liberty in Exile journalists have also received responses from RFE/RL Board chair, BBG Governor Dennis Mulhaupt, and RFE/RL Board vice-chair, BBG Governor Susan McCue.
“Thank you very much for this kind invitation. Unfortunately, at the time of the event, I will be on an airplane. Thank you also for everything you all have done for Radio Liberty during its distinguished history and for what I hope we all can do in the future to advance its vital mission.
With kindest regards and respect,
“Thank you for the invitation,
Unfortunately, I cannot be in Moscow this weekend but am pleased to know our new RFE/RL Acting Director Kevin Klose is planning to respond positively on behalf of the company and will offer a greeting and tribute. We look forward to continuing the 60 years of exemplary journalism in the pursuit of human freedoms and democracy.
Ashe assured fired Radio Liberty journalists that “the Board was never informed in any significant way as to what happened” and added “That does not lessen the scope or the manner in which decisions were made and implemented.”
Former RFE/RL president Steven Korn, on whose orders journalists were fired, claims that he had fully informed the BBG board about everything he was planning to do, warned BBG members that his decisions would meet with strong opposition in Russia, and received their approval. The critical phrase in Ashe’s statement is “informed in any significant way.” BBG members were completely surprised that nearly the entire Russian human rights and democratic community united in support of the fired Radio Liberty journalists and in opposition to programming changes in the Russian Service. Leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev and Lyudmila Alexeeva issued statements and signed petitions.
According to media reports, the board subsequently asked Korn to resign, but he insists that he left on his own for personal reasons.
Ashe said that with the newly-appointed acting president Kevin Klose, “RFERL has a new leader who generates confidence and deserves our support as he works to deal with the situation.” Klose has invited Lyudmila Alexeeva and American journalist and scholar David Satter, another strong defender of the former Radio Liberty staff, to speak at a special ceremony in Washington on March 1 to mark Radio Liberty’s 60th anniversary.
Sources told BBG Watch that Klose is pleased that former Radio Liberty journalists who were dismissed or resigned in protest will hold their own anniversary observances in Moscow on the same day, in which former reformist Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov and other prominent Russian democratic leaders, intellectuals and artists are expected to participate. They are boycotting the official Radio Liberty–an untenable situation that Klose hopes to soon reverse by finding a way of bringing fired journalists back to the station and restoring their formerly popular programs, sources said.
Statement by Broadcasting Board of Governors Member Ambassador Victor Ashe
“I live in Knoxville, TN and cannot get to either Washington or Moscow for the occasion. Please accept this statement from me as one Governor who admires the work of Radio Liberty and its Russian Service.
The 60th anniversary is an important milestone and as one Board member of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, I am proud of what the Moscow Bureau has done over the years. You have truly been a beacon of hope and liberty. This is a time to reflect and plan for the future.
We cannot let the tragic events at the Moscow Bureau over the past six months go unmentioned. As one Board member, As one individual Governor, I want to apologize for what happened. I can assure you the Board was never informed in any significant way as to what happened. That does not lessen the scope or the manner in which decisions were made and implemented. I feel with Kevin Klose, RFERL has a new leader who generates confidence and deserves our support as he works to deal with the situation.
Let us resolve on this 60th anniversary to continue to bring objective news to Russia and may liberty prevail in its truest sense in Russia and throughout the world.