BBG Watch Commentary
In contrast with the 60th anniversary of Radio Free Europe, for which Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) held several big events in 2010 during the RFE/RL presidency of Jeffrey Gedmin, the U.S. taxpayer-funded surrogate media freedom broadcaster has not yet announced any plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Radio Liberty, which falls on March 1.
Because such anniversary observances take a long time to plan, any major official events on March 1 would have to had been initiated by former RFE/RL president Steven Korn and his top deputies rather than the newly-appointed RFE/RL acting president Kevin Klose who has not yet even had time to assemble his own management team.
A major obstacle to holding any official commemorative events in Russia is a current boycott of Radio Liberty by its leading supporters among Russian human rights activists, opposition political leaders, intellectuals and independent journalists. They all strongly object to Steven Korn’s decision last September to fire dozens of experienced and respected Radio Liberty journalists and to programming policy changes initiated by Masha Gessen who had been appointed by Korn as the new director of the Russian Service.
In an attempt to resolve the crisis, Kevin Klose met in Moscow last week with representatives of fired journalists, human rights activists and opposition leaders, but his efforts are not expected to produce a resolution by March 1. The problem created by the previous management team is so great and so complicated that it may take Klose a few months to work out and implement his solutions.
Even though they have confidence in Klose’s willingness and ability to make the right decisions, Radio Liberty in Exile, a group of fired Radio Liberty journalists and their supporters, is planning an unofficial anniversary event in Moscow on March 1. They believe the anniversary is too important for too many Russians and Americans to be ignored. Even though they are not the official Radio Liberty, Radio Liberty in Exile was the first to post on the web materials marking the station’s 60th anniversary. Many in Russia see fired journalists who last September formed Radio Liberty in Exile as the real Radio Liberty upholding the traditions of the station.
While they wait for Kevin Klose to announce his next moves, fired journalists and their colleagues who resigned in protest and joined Radio Liberty in Exile are busy updating their Novaya Svoboda (New Liberty) website and Facebook page. They are also preparing for the 60 anniversary observances in Moscow which are likely to draw their supporters from among leading Russian human rights activists and democratic politicians. Mikhail Gorbachev was among many Russian leaders who protested against the firing of Radio Liberty journalists and recent editorial policy changes.
The official RFE/RL websites have been so far silent on the Radio Liberty anniversary. In contrast with the current situation, RFE/RL had held several major events to commemorate in 2010 the 60th anniversary of Radio Free Europe’s first broadcast to communist-ruled Czechoslovakia. The RFE 60th anniversary observances were overseen by the then RFE/RL president Jeffrey Gedmin.
Kevin Klose cannot be blamed for the current crisis or for the inability of RFE/RL to take advantage of the anniversary to point out to the U.S. Congress and American taxpayers how important Radio Liberty could be for the Russians living under President Putin’s authoritarian rule. It would be difficult for Kevin Klose to speak about Radio Liberty’s potential important role in Russia while the Russian Service is being boycotted by its former supporters. Hopefully, this situation will be soon reversed.
But as unfortunate as it is for now, the major focus of this year’s 60th anniversary observances of Radio Liberty is likely to be the unofficial Radio Liberty in Exile event in Moscow on March 1 despite efforts by RFE/RL acting president Kevin Klose and the push from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to bring the fired journalists back to Radio Liberty and win back the support of the Russian democratic opposition. There is simply not enough time to resolve the crisis before March 1.
But even the unofficial event scheduled in Moscow by Radio Liberty in Exile offers some hope and some lessons for the future. The event’s slogan is: “From Stalin to Putin – Liberty Without Borders.” It shows that Russians and Americans understand the power of free press in the struggle for freedom and human rights. As Mr. Putin increases his grip on power, Radio Liberty will need the expertise and the tremendous talent of its fired journalists and multimedia experts.
BBG Watch hopes that Radio Liberty and its fired staff will soon be able to resume their important work.
The following reports on the RFE/RL website show how the broadcaster commemorated the 60th anniversary of Radio Free Europe in 2010.
Published 29 September 2010
On July 4, 1950, RFE went on the air for the first time with a broadcast to communist Czechoslovakia from a studio in New York City. Sixty years later, RFE/RL reaches nearly 20 million people in 28 languages and 21 countries. Here’s a look at our history.
Published 30 September 2010
RFE’s 60th anniversary celebration at the Newseum in Washington, DC on September 28, 2010 featuring BBG Chairman Walter Isaacson. MORE
July 02, 2010
PRAGUE/WASHINGTON — On July 4, 1950, Radio Free Europe (RFE) went on the air for the first time with a broadcast to communist Czechoslovakia from a studio in New York City’s Empire State Building. The station signed on with the pledge of delivering news “in the American tradition of free speech.”
On this Fourth of July, exactly 60 years later, RFE/RL reaches nearly 20 million people in 28 languages and 21 countries (map) including Russia, Belarus, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan It remains a lifeline for people living in war zones and under authoritarian rule who seek accurate and reliable news and information. MORE
Established at the beginning of the Cold War to transmit uncensored news and information to audiences behind the Iron Curtain, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) played a significant role in the collapse of communism and the rise of democracies in post-communist Europe. MORE
Radio Liberation (later renamed Radio Liberty) begins broadcasting in Russian (and in ten other languages by the end of 1954) MORE