Euronews Video from Radio Liberty Moscow Protest
Click on the image to view Euronews Video from Radio Liberty Moscow Protest

See Euronews Video: Moscow protest over Radio Liberty staff cuts

Euronews didn’t get it quite right. The decision to fire journalists and to silence human rights programs on Radio Liberty (Radio Svoboda) was not related to funding. The funding for Radio Liberty is still essentially the same. The decision to fire about 40 journalists, website editors, and other staffers at the Radio Liberty bureau in Moscow — almost the entire broadcasting and Internet team — was made by the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) American management at the RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic. RFE/RL President Steve Korn and Vice President Julia Ragona who made and implemented these decisions report to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a U.S. federal agency in Washington.

The mass firing occurred shortly after a new director for the Russian Service was hired and shortly before she officially came on board. Media reports speculate that the staff, which made Radio Liberty a human rights station, had to go. The excuse given by the RFE/RL management was the loss of an AM transmitter in Moscow due to a change in Russian law. But media reports point out that RFE/RL management did nothing to find alternative rebroadcasting arrangements in Russia. The management also asserted the need for a digital transformation, but RFE/RL executives fired the entire Internet team that made Radio Liberty website and social outreach in Russia one of the best in that market.

The management hired security guards to bar Radio Liberty journalists from their building, sent them to a law firm in Moscow where they were told that they would be fired unless they agreed to sign separation agreements that offered them severance pay, and prevented them from even saying good bye to radio listeners and website users after decades of on air work and many years of online interaction with the audience. All Moscow-originated Radio Liberty human rights programs and others were abruptly ended without any immediate explanation. The fired Radio Liberty team included many well-known Russian journalists and human rights reporters.

Kirill Filimonov Detained by Police at U.S. Embassy Moscow
Kirill Filimonov Detained by Police at U.S. Embassy Moscow

A young Russian journalism student Kirill Filimonov, protesting against U.S. decision to stifle Radio Liberty broadcasts and to fire its journalists, was detained by the police but released and, with about 30 mostly young, Russian demonstrators, continued the picket Tuesday in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Russian and foreign media were on the scene, including Euronews and a National Public Radio (NPR) reporter who interviewed Filimonov.