Interfax, the biggest non-governmental Russian news agency, reported the launching of SvobodaNew.com, the news and information website set up by a group of former Radio Liberty journalists who call themselves Radio Liberty in Exile. More than 30 journalists were fired last September on orders of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president Steven Korn to clean house for the new Russian Service director Masha Gessen and her team. Eight more journalists resigned in protest.
Interfax lists the site’s features that are already fully functioning such as “News,” “Politics,” “History,” “Regions,” as well as those which are still under construction: “Economics,” Society,” “Culture,” and “Sports.”
Elena Gloushkova, the RFE/RL Moscow Bureau administrative manager, told Interfax that the launching of the new site is the former journalists’ own business and that RFE/RL has nothing to do with this project. Later in the day, she told Interfax that the RFE/RL Moscow bureau has completed the recruiting of new staffers from other media to replace those journalists who were fired at the end of September. However, she refused to tell Interfax how many new journalists have been hired and in which media they were previously working.
The official Radio Liberty website has missed important news stories, such as Obama-Putin phone call, amid reports that the new staff lacks political reporting and multimedia experience. The official site is being boycotted by leaders of the human rights and political opposition groups and many former site visitors.
The news about the launching of the new SvobodaNew.com site has been been reported by a wide range of Russian media including:
Lenizdat.ru – В Интернете появилось “Радио Свобода в изгнании”;
Newsatmorning – Уволенные сотрудники “Радио Свобода” открыли свой сайт;
Argumenty i Fakty – Уволенные сотрудники «Радио Свобода» открыли собственный сайт
Rambler.ru – Бывшие сотрудники «Радио Свобода» открыли «радио в изгнании» and others
Rambler News also reports that the site presents the opinions of former Radio Liberty journalists, human rights leaders, including Ludmila Alexxeeva, Sergei Kovalev, and Aleksandr Chekasov, as well as sociologist Dr. Lev Gudkov, on the recent changes at RFE/RL.
Rambler News also reports on the RFE/RL’s management decision to block the SvobodaNew.com news site on computers at RFE/RL offices in Prague, making it inaccessible for RFE/RL journalists unless they request permission from the management to view it.
In response to the censoring of the SvobodaNew.com website by RFE/RL management, one former Radio Liberty journalist sent us this message:
Idiots! Lessons: 1. What Radio Gessen can do to block access from inside the Radio to an outside Internet site, can just as easily be done for access to Radio Gessen’s site from inside Russia — when the Russian authorities will perceive such a need. 2. People at RFE/RL are visiting Radio Liberty In Exile site. 3. The management is concerned by that fact.”
Another former Radio Liberty journalist said:
“To prevent grown up people and professionals from accessing SvobodaNew.com site in doing their job as journalists is patronizing and offensive. The move shows insecurity, because Steven Korn evidently is afraid that his staff can access the site. It is a stupid move because RFE/RL journalists can view the site anyway from their computers at home.”