BBG Watch Commentary
A year ago, the former Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) management and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executives wanted to eliminate broadcasting to the North Caucasus region, the ancestral home of the Boston bombings suspects. They almost suceeded in carrying out their plan that was clearly against U.S. national security interests.
At about the same time, RFE/RL’s former management fired dozens of Radio Liberty journalists in Russia, but the proposed cuts to the North Caucasus Service were not implemented as a public diplomacy crisis in Russia over Radio Liberty became apparent and produced numerous protests from human rights activists and pro-democracy leaders.
RFE/RL managers who wanted to eliminate broadcasting in Avar, Chechen and Circassian have since resigned. Some of the fired Russian Service journalists are being rehired. While IBB exececutives who were also responsible for the plan to eliminate Avar, Chechen and Circassian boradcaststs are still employed, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) members are now honoring journalists who work for RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service.
BBG and RFE/RL Press Release
May 17, 2013
The journalists of RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service have been honored for their “bravery, dedication and service to the people of Russia’s North Caucasus region” by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). BBG Governor Victor Ashe, who also serves as Vice Chair of RFE/RL’s Board of Directors, presented a Certificate of Recognition during a May 17 ceremony conducted via videoconference in Washington and Prague.
In presenting the certificate to North Caucasus Service director Aslan Doukaev, Governor Ashe noted that the journalists work in “one of the most violent and dangerous regions in the world, (and) is the only international broadcaster to provide objective news and analysis in the Chechen, Circassian, and Avar languages.” The service began broadcasting on April 3, 2002 and has overcome accreditation denials by Russian authorities to cover many historic events in the region, such as the separatist insurgency, the 2004 Beslan hostage tragedy, and the 2008 Russia-Georgia War.
“As events such as the Boston Marathon bombing have reminded us, the informed reporting of the North Caucasus Service remains crucial for the well-being of the peoples of the region, and dramatically relevant to the interests of the United States,” Ashe noted.
Acting President and CEO Kevin Klose also praised the team, noting that although the service is made up of many different backgrounds and languages, they “set the standard” for how diverse populations can “speak to each other, and remain committed to finding common ground, which is essential in civil society.”
RFE/RL has a rich history of broadcasting in the region, with the earliest efforts spanning from 1953 to 1976. Today, the North Caucasus Service produces daily programs on key local, Russian, and international news stories in each of its three languages. The service also produces feature content that addresses important topics such as human rights, religion and tolerance, language, women’s rights and youth issues. Reports are available online at radioerkenli.com (Avar), radiomarsho.com (Chechen) and khutynygharadio.com (Circassian).
— John McGregor