BBG Watch Commentary

VOA Russian Service exclusive report on White House comment on Khodorkovsky's release.
VOA Russian Service exclusive report on White House comment on Khodorkovsky’s release.

UPDATE: As of 5PM ET Friday, the Voice of America English website still shows nothing about the White House reaction to Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s release from a Russian prison. Both RT (Russia Today) and Russian news agency RIA Novosti have reported on the White House statement on Khodorkovsky’s release a few hours ago. The VOA Russian Service also reported on it, but VOA English website and most other VOA language services did not.

US ‘Welcomes’ Khodorkovsky Pardon but Raps Russia on Rights,” RIA Novosti, 23:07 20/12/2013

Khodorkovsky’s release – LIVE UPDATES,” RT (Russia Today), Published time: December 20, 2013 13:02 Edited time: December 20, 2013 19:12.

RT (Russia Today) 19:11 GMT: The United States said Friday that it “welcomes” the Kremlin’s decision to pardon former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other Russian prisoners but expressed concern about the mingling of politics and justice in Russia.

Today’s humanitarian gesture is a positive development for Russian society, but we continue to be deeply troubled by selective justice in Russia,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement to RIA Novosti news agency. “If Russia is to achieve its potential to play its full role on the world stage, it must elevate the rule of law over political considerations.” RT (Russia Today)

The Voice of America (VOA) Russian Service website posted an exclusive news report that the White House has welcomed the release of Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but the main VOA English news website has not updated its own news report on Khodorkovsky’s release after a pardon from President Putin and still has nothing on the White House comment.

We applaud the VOA Russian Service for its exclusive report on the White House statement on Khodorkovsky.

But the VOA English news website should have also gotten and posted this news.

The VOA Central Newsroom had a chance to beat the competition such as BBC and RT (Russia Today) on the official U.S. reaction to Khodorkovsky’s release, but once again it failed.

While the VOA Russian Service posted its own exclusive report on the White House statement, the other 44 VOA language services did not. This undermines VOA competitiveness as a news organization.

Khodorkovsky’s release from prison has been the lead news story on both BBC and RT websites for some time, but not on the VOA English website, which still leads with the attack on a UN camp in South Sudan.

This is yet another example of the VOA Central Newsroom and the VOA English website team being unable to seek information on breaking news, coordinate news coverage with VOA foreign language services, or to post significant news and updates online in a timely manner.

The problem are not individual VOA journalists and correspondents but the news reporting system put in place by VOA senior managers and their inability to manage news reporting and to get along with VOA reporters who want to do their job.

VOA journalists have been complaining for years to VOA management about this problem, but their complaints have been ignored and no attempts were made to reform the system. The problem was noted most recently by Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member Matt Armstrong at an open BBG board meeting on Wednesday.

Armstrong noted that “what I find surprising is what appears to be the lack on the website of any event and that we lag significantly behind other media outlets.” He added that when we do file a story, it seems it’s thin at the least, especially when I compare it to these other offerings.”

Armstrong made these comments in response to a presentation at a BBG board meeting by VOA Director David Ensor. The bipartisan BBG board supervises the Voice of America and other U.S. civilian international media outlets.

The U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul posted on his Facebook page that “The United States welcomes the pardons of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other Russian citizens.”

The VOA English website still had nothing about these official U.S. comments on Khodorkovsky’s release as of 5PM ET Friday.

Further UPDATE: Late Friday afternoon, VOA English News finally inserted these two sentences into its report on Khodorkovsky’s arrival in Germany:

The White House welcomed the pardon, calling it a “humanitarian gesture” and “a positive development for Russian society.” But National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden also voiced concern about what she described as “politically motivated investigations and selective prosecutions in Russia.”

Белый дом: мы приветствуем помилование Ходорковского

Вашингтон, тем не менее, выразил обеспокоенность избирательным судопроизводством в России

Русская служба «Голоса Америки»
20.12.2013

Кэйтлин Хейден, пресс-секретарь Совета национальной безопасности при Белом доме, сообщила Русской службе «Голоса Америки», что «США приветствуют помилование Михаила Ходорковского и других российских граждан».

«На протяжении многих лет мы выражали беспокойство по поводу политически мотивированных и избирательных преследований в России, включая дело Ходорковского», – заявила она.

«Сегодняшний гуманный жест – это позитивное развитие для российского общества, но мы продолжаем оставаться глубоко обеспокоенными избирательным судопроизводством в России. Если Россия хочет реализовать свой потенциал и играть полноценную роль на мировой арене, она должна отдать предпочтение верховенству закона над политическими соображениями», – сказала Хейден.

Translation of VOA Russian Service Report

White House: We welcome pardon for Khodorkovsky, VOA Russian Service

Washington, however, expressed concern about system of justice in Russia

Russian Service ” Voice of America”
20.12.2013

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council at the White House, told the Russian Service of the Voice of America that “the United States welcomes the pardon for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other Russian citizens.”

“For many years, we have expressed concern about the politically motivated and selective persecution in Russia, including the Khodorkovsky case,” she said.

“Today’s humanitarian gesture is a positive development for the Russian society, but we continue to be deeply troubled by the judicial proceedings in Russia. If Russia wants to realize its potential and play a full role on the world stage, it must give preference to the rule of law over political considerations, ” said Hayden.

In addition to posting the White House statement, the VOA Russian Service also had other reports on Khodorkovsky’s release.

VOA English News report has hot been updated recently.
VOA English News report has hot been updated recently.

VOA English News Report

Khodorkovsky Lands in Germany

VOA News
December 20, 2013

Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky arrived in Berlin on Friday after being released from prison. He flew out of Russia just hours after President Vladimir Putin signed a pardon for him – ending more than 10 years of detention for tax evasion and embezzlement.

The former Yukos oil company head was greeted by former German Foreign Minister Hans-Deitrich Genscher at Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport.

In a statement following his release Friday, Khodorkovsky said he asked the Russian president on November 12 to pardon him in connection with “family circumstances” and that he was “glad” the response was positive.

“The issue of admission of guilt was not raised,” Khodorkovsky said in the statement.

Russia’s federal prison service said Friday that the former Yukos oil company head had asked permission to travel outside the country and flown to Germany, where his mother had been receiving medical treatment.

Putin said earlier Friday on his website that he was pardoning Khodorkovsky for humanitarian reasons.

Putin first announced his intention to free Khodorkovsky during a lengthy news conference Thursday covering a wide range of topics. At that time, he said Khodorkovsky had, for the first time, requested a pardon because his mother is ill.

Russia’s former richest man was a strong critic of the Kremlin, and his backers considered him a political prisoner.

Putin also said two members of the Pussy Riot punk rock band will be freed on amnesty.

His announcements come ahead of Russia hosting the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February. The lead-up to the event has put Russia’s human rights record in the spotlight.

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