BBG Watch Commentary
“Former RFE/RL President Kevin Klose and former RFE/RL Czechoslovak Service director Pavel Pechacek were honored by Prime Minister of the Czech Republic H.E. Bohuslav Sobotka in a Washington ceremony today, for their “lifelong work for democracy, human rights and freedom,” and their “contributions to the transformation and development” of the Czech Republic,” RFE/RL reported.
During his first tenure as RFE/RL president, Kevin Klose, a distinguished American journalist and media executive, was instrumental in moving RFE/RL from Munich to Prague in 1995. At the suggestion of the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org), he was hired the second time by the Broadcasting Board of Governors in 2013 to deal with the management crisis caused by the mass firing of Radio Liberty journalists in Russia by RFE/RL’s American management in September 2012. BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executives ignored the crisis for many months and allowed it to escalate. A report on the RFE/RL 2012 crisis requested by the former BBG board from IBB Deputy Director Jeff Trimble was never made public.
Fired Radio Liberty journalists were being defended by prominent Russian opposition and human rights leaders, including former President Mikhail Gorbachev and Moscow Helsinki Watch chair Lyudmila Alekseyeva. BBG Watch reported extensively on the crisis. Former BBG members, Ambassador Victor Ashe, Susan McCue, and Michael Meehan took an active role in recruiting Kevin Klose for the job.
Klose resolved the crisis, rehired many of the dismissed journalists, reversed decline of RFE/RL’s prestige and drop in online audience caused by the actions of previous management, and greatly improved journalistic standards. He left RFE/RL in March 2014. Since then, RFE/RL has not had permanent leadership and has seen yet another decline in governance and impact, although not as dramatic as in 2012.
According to American media scholar Martha Bayles, RFE/RL still has many excellent journalists but continues to suffer from poor leadership. She appealed to BBG board members to look to qualified outside candidates for the job of permanent president of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. RFE/RL has now been without permanent CEO for over two years. A recent example of lax journalistic and managerial standards after Kevin Klose’s departure was the posting of an anti-Israel message on the RFE/RL Facebook page that critics saw posing a danger of encouraging more terrorist attacks.
RFE/RL desperately needs a new leader who could follow in Kevin Klose’s footsteps and more excellent managers and journalists like Pavel Pechacek.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Communications / Press Releases
March 31, 2016
WASHINGTON — Former RFE/RL President Kevin Klose and former RFE/RL Czechoslovak Service director Pavel Pechacek were honored by Prime Minister of the Czech Republic H.E. Bohuslav Sobotka in a Washington ceremony today, for their “lifelong work for democracy, human rights and freedom,” and their “contributions to the transformation and development” of the Czech Republic.
The two were presented with Karel Kramar Medals, among the Czech Republic’s highest state honors, in gratitude for their roles in bringing RFE/RL to Prague in 1995, and contributing to the defeat of communism in the country and the region.
The prime minister also thanked RFE/RL “for the enormous work, for its invaluable help, for being a stable point of objectivity in the cosmos of disinformation, for providing guidance to millions of listeners and for speaking the voice of freedom.”
Pavel Pechacek was recognized for his “untiring and active assistance to the homeland” as a reporter and director of RFE/RL’s and Voice of America’s Czechoslovak broadcasts for a period spanning over 25 years. During the 1989 Velvet Revolution, Pechacek was the only independent journalist to report live from Prague’s Wenceslas Square to local audiences in their native Czech language. He continued as director of RFE/RL’s Czech Service until 2001, helping facilitate the emergence of a free media in the Czech Republic today.
In his acceptance remarks, Pechacek called the creation of RFE/RL and Voice of America “one of the greatest gifts the United States has bestowed on oppressed people living under totalitarian regimes.”
As RFE/RL President from 1994 to 1997, Kevin Klose, together with Pechacek and Czech President Vaclav Havel, was among the architects of RFE/RL’s move to Prague from Munich, Germany, where it had operated since 1951. Klose, the former NPR president and a veteran Washington Post reporter, who served as Moscow bureau chief in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, returned to RFE/RL as president from 2012 to 2014. He is currently a professor and former Dean at the University of Maryland’s Merrill College of Journalism.
The Karel Kramar Medal was established on the 90th anniversary of the founding of the first independent Czechoslovak government in 1918, and is named after its first premier, Karel Kramar. It is bestowed by the sitting prime minister of the Czech Republic. The award of the Kramar Medals to Klose and Pechacek was announced by Prime Minister Sobotka in June 2015 in Prague.