BBG Watch Commentary
Radio Liberty-in-Exile group (Radio Svoboda-in-Exile) is planning a number of events and protests to coincide with the announced visit to Moscow Monday of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty president Steven Korn and his deputy Julia Ragona. Executives in charge of the U.S. taxpayer-funded broadcaster are responsible for firing dozens of Radio Liberty journalists who are being defended by major opposition and human rights leaders in Russia, including former president Mikhail Gorbachev. The fired journalists, calling themselves Radio Liberty-in-Exile, are planning a number of events and protest actions during Korn’s and Ragona’s visit to Moscow next week.
Korn and Ragona reportedly plan to meet with some of the political and human rights leaders who had criticized them in letters to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). They may likely be asked to explain why they used guards to block journalists from entering the news bureau in Moscow, forced them to resign, and prevented them from saying good bye to their audience of many years. The BBG, a federal agency in Washington, hired Korn and has conrol over RFE/RL.
Korn had described the fired journalists to the Broadcasting Board of Governors as resistant to change, stuck in the 1980s, and lacking digital skills, but they enjoy an excellent reputation in Russia among their audience, other independent journalists and democratic opposition and human rights leaders.
The fired staffers said that Korn lied because he wanted to hire Russian American writer Masha Gessen and allow her to bring her own people. Radio Liberty-in Exile said that the new hires lack multimedia skills, which many of the dismissed journalists successfully used to create one of the most cited hybrid radio news website in Russia. Among those fired were members of the Radio Liberty Internet team, which puts into question Korn’s argument that his actions were related to a digital transformation of the Russian Service. The fired team includes some of the best known and highly respected independent reporters in Russia.
Korn, Ragona and Gessen plan to hold on Monday a panel discussion on “Reforming Radio Liberty.” Radio Liberty-in-Exile plans to hold its own panel discussion, meet with members of the media and NGOs, and organize a number of protests, including a performance featuring a mysterious character Genghis-Korn, a nickname given to Korn by RFE/RL employees. Radio Liberty-in-Exile Internet staffers will stream live video from some of these events. They have created a Radio Svoboda-in-Exile USTREAM site to keep supporters and the media informed about their activities using live and on-demand video.
The fired Radio Liberty journalists and their colleagues who had resigned in protest have also extended an invitation to Korn and Ragona to meet in Moscow with the Radio Liberty-in-Exile group.
We, dozens of former Radio Liberty (Radio Svoboda) journalists fired by American managers who used guards and other coercive measures against us, are ready to welcome Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty president Steven Korn and his deputy Julia Ragona for a private conference during their planned visit to Moscow on October 29.
We believe that instead of reforming, Korn and Ragona destroyed Radio Liberty. Newly recruited people, former print magazine editors and writers brought in by the new Russian Service director Masha Gessen have no substantive experience in new social media, investigative reporting or video and radio broadcasting. This looks to us more like scandalous nepotism than any serious reform.
Masha Gessen said that Radio Liberty should become an “agent of normality” and pay less attention to the political opposition in Russia.
Is this the language of President Putin who had a meeting with Gessen? We all know that Mr. Putin hates “enemy foreign agents” or any kind of media supporting democratic change like Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, but he will for sure more than welcome “agents of normality.”
We believe that RFE/RL president Steven Korn and his deputy Julia Ragona are destroying Radio Liberty and its focus on human rights issues. At the same time when the Russian government authorities are increasing their repressive measures against civil society initiatives, these executives plan to “normalize” Radio Liberty coverage. This station is paid for by American taxpayers to support free media and political freedom. Let Steven Korn pay for “Radio Gessen” himself, and allow American taxpayers to support the true Radio Liberty which is now in exile.
We will hold a protest event performance in Moscow on Monday, October 29 at 11:30 am, on Bersenevskaya Naberezhnaya 6/3, against Mr Korn’s “Pop Radio.”
Everyone, including media and NGOs, is welcome to join us. Prior registration is not necessary, but you can let us know on Facebook if you are coming – http://www.facebook.com/events/124564037695407/.
A mysterious character Genghis-Korn will join us and present his point of view.
The protest event performance will also be streamed live on the Radio Liberty-in-Exile channel, http://www.ustream.tv/channel/radio-svoboda-in-exile.