BBG Watch Commentary
Radio Liberty in Exile journalists — those who were fired last September by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) or resigned in protest — launched Sunday an impressive, live, online local elections coverage in Russia with streaming video (USTREAM), Google Hangout discussions, and YouTube video postings.
The Radio Liberty in Exile group has over 40 members and thousands of supporters in Russia. They started their news website, Novaya Svoboda (New Liberty), soon after they were fired. All of them work as volunteers without any outside financial aid.
Because of their previous association with the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Liberty, most of them will not be able to find employment as full-time independent journalists in Putin’s Russia, although they are considered some of the best and most respected reporters in their country. They have made enormous contributions to defending media freedom. Many still hope that they will be allowed to return to the Russian Service of Radio Liberty.
The service has suffered a tremendous loss of audience and reputation as a serious journalistic organization after these highly skilled multimedia professionals and political reporters were fired by the former RFE/RL management team and replaced with Masha Gessen and her associates. There are signs that the new acting RFE/RL president Kevin Klose is working to bring them back.
In addition, the official Radio Liberty team and website are being boycotting by leading Russian intellectuals, artists, democratic political leaders, and human rights activists. Other media outlets in Russia for the most part have stopped citing Radio Liberty news reports. Kevin Klose and most members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) realize that something must be done quickly to resolve the crisis and to save the station’s effectiveness and reputation in Russia, inside sources told BBG Watch.
The fired journalists have shown tremendous patience and should be admired for what they have done to preserve Radio Liberty’s traditional role as an alternative news source in Russia despite the suffering to which they have been subjected. They have also shown that they are able to use all new media skills and platforms in addition to providing first-class reporting on sensitive and controversial issues without any fear. They are both the victims and the true heroes in this tragic situation.
They feel it is their duty to fill the information gap and to expose fraud and corruption in Russia even if they have to work without any compensation.
This is what Radio Liberty in Exile journalists reported for Novaya Svoboda (New Liberty) website on local elections in the city of Zhukovsky near Moscow:
Elections in Zhukovsky: Outrageous Vote Buying and Restrictions for Observers
In the morning on the day of the local elections of Zhukovsky near Moscow, public inspectors faced resistance and reported “irregularities” in voting records. Dozens of people were registered under several different names. There was a massive vote buying using paid agitators.
Full coverage can be seen on Novaya Svoboda (New Liberty) website: Подмосковный наукоград Жуковский: выборы 2013.
Radio Liberty in Exile covered how people received money for their votes, visited homes of some voters, reported on confrontations between city officials and local activist, went to press conference of candidates and covered the counting of the votes.
The team produced short on-air reports and online video interviews. There was also streaming with live camera. At the same time, they reported by Twitter and shared information via social networks. They downloaded and edited on-air video and posted short pieces on YouTube. All of this was done by only four people – citizen journalist Denis Grigorian, an expert from the informal election observer organisation SONAR Fedor Bogdanovsky, founder, web-master and editor of the site Novaya Svoboda Andrey Korolev and Radio Liberty in Exile producer Vladimir Abarbanell who was the director of Radio Liberty’s regional correspondent network in Russia until his dismissal last September. Before he started work with Radio Liberty he had been a private radio station owner and president of the Association of Independent Broadcasters. Other fired Radio Liberty in Exile journalists helped to promote the election coverage project on other media outlets and websites.
The official Radio Liberty had only one report without much original information and very few Tweets from Zhukovsky.
Подмосковный наукоград Жуковский: выборы 2013
На 50 избирательных участках будут работать порядка тысячи наблюдателей от различных партий и общественных объединений, а также от кандидатов на пост мэра. “Половина из этих наблюдателей – это представители СМИ. Получится так, что на каждом избирательном участке будет находиться 15-20 наблюдателей”, – сказал глава избирательной комиссии Московской области.