Kredo quotes Freedom House president David Kramer as saying that “The timing of it, the way it was done, and the lack of explanation sends an unfortunate message. It creates the impression, whether intended or not, that the U.S. is pulling out [of Russia], and that’s not the impression we want to leave.”
“I think they have already destroyed the radio so much loved and followed by those Russian listeners who stand for freedom and democracy,” Mario Corti, a former director of Radio Liberty’s Russian Service, told the Free Beacon. “They are lying to the media by playing down the scale of the firings.”
Corti and other insiders who spoke to the Free Beacon both on and off the record believe that RFE’s Washington-based leadership used the new law as an excuse to abandon the radio businesses, which had become costly and difficult for D.C. bureaucrats to control.
However, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees RFE-RL, disputes these accusations. It maintains that the new law forces leaders to take painful yet necessary steps that will benefit the organization in the long run.
“What I think is that the new law on the media was just an excuse for the BBG and [its president and CEO Steven] Korn to do what they had already previously planned to do—get away [from] radio altogether,” Corti said. “The bottom line is that some BBG members and RLE/RL bureaucrats are not and have not been comfortable with radio as a medium at all.”
The BBG and RFE’s leadership are acting in a shortsighted manner, others maintain. A pro-democracy presence is needed more than ever in an increasingly authoritarian Russia, these experts say.
Read more: U.S. to End Pro-Democracy Broadcasts in Russia by Adam Kredo, The Washington Free Beacon.