BBG WATCH COMMENTARY
National Public Radio (NPR) online article (audio report is also available) quotes statements from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) President Steven Korn and the new director of Radio Liberty’s Russian Service suggesting that the mass firing of Radio Liberty employees in Moscow was part of a digital transition. NPR failed to note that the first group of media professionals fired by Mr. Korn were members of Radio Liberty’s outstanding Internet team who have created one of the most successful hybrid multimedia — text-audio-video-social media-mobile devices — independent news website in Russia and increased traffic in the last three years almost 10 times.
Critics point out that the new Radio Liberty director Masha Gessen has had no significant new media, radio, video production or television experience and, according to reports compiled by former Radio Liberty employees, the number of site visitors at her previous employer had declined while she was in charge. Critics also point out that her management record at her previous employers was not very successful or very long before she left some of them due to various conflicts. Gessen is, however, a successful writer. She accused some of her critics in Russia of slandering her by suggesting a link between her selection by Radio Liberty and the mass firing of employees, which occurred shortly after her appointment was announced but before she officially came on board. Her critics note that since Mr. Putin has recently signed a law re-criminalizing slander with fines of up to $150,000, such threats may be designed to limit public debate and criticism.
NPR report also failed to note numerous protests against the mass firing of Radio Liberty journalists sent to Washington by Mikhail Gorbachev and other prominent leaders of the democratic opposition and the human rights movement in Russia.
The National Public Radio (NPR) online report by Corey Flintoff: Radio Liberty Going Off The Air In Russia
NPR reporter Corey Clintoff ended his report by noting that a lot of people need to be convinced. Mikhail Gorbachev, former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, wrote “Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty’s management decision to dismiss almost all of the Russian service staff looks especially strange in this context. It is hard to get rid of an impression that RFE/RL’s American management is prepared to make an about-turn.” Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov wrote to the Broadcasting Board of Governors in Washington, “We were shocked by the decision of the officials of RFE/RL. This decision will cause tremendous harm to the political media freedom in Russia and therefore we are expressing our deep concern. Former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov joined him, “The purge in Moscow bureau has badly damaged the reputation of RFE/RL as a free international media working in traditions of democratic standards.”
Former Vice Speaker of the Parliament (Duma) Vladimir Ryzhkov wrote “We recommend the Broadcasting Board of Governors in Washington to revise the RFE/RL management decision and restore medium-wave broadcasting and the Radio Liberty Moscow team.” These appeals and protests were ignored by Mr. Korn and the BBG.