Some of Radio Liberty Moscow journalists on the day of their dismissal
Some of Radio Liberty Moscow journalists on the day of their dismissal. From left to right: Ivan Tolstoy, Valdimir Abarbanell, Elena Fanailova, Veronika Bode, Elena Rykovtseva, Elena Kolepaeva, Andrey Trukhan, Yulia Ivanchenkova. Ivan Tolstoy is based in Prague and was not affected by this round of lay offs in Moscow.

BBG Watch Commentary

The new director of the Radio Liberty Russian Service, Russian American journalist, writer and gay rights advocate Masha Gessen, claims that she had nothing to do with firing of almost the entire staff of the Radio Liberty Moscow bureau. She has also accused one former Radio Liberty contributor and the fired editor-in-chief of the Russian website of slander for suggesting links between her and the mass firing because they happened after she was selected for the job but before she officially came on board. She continues to deny any direct role in the firings. Slander is a criminal offense in Russia under a new law signed by President Putin with fines up to $150,000.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Steven Korn and Vice President Julia Ragona insist that the reorganization of the Moscow bureau was done to prepare it for Radio Liberty’s new role in digital media in Russia after RFE/RL lost a medium wave (AM) radio frequency in Moscow under a new Russian media law. But the list of the fired employees (some resigned in protest) shows that the entire Internet and social media team was also dismissed along with some of the most famous Radio Liberty journalists. Russian human rights leaders, former President Mikhail Gorbachev and other opposition politicians protested the firings at Radio Liberty. The head of the liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy said that he would consider hiring some of the fired Radio Liberty broadcasters.

Ms. Ragona, who oversaw the firings in Moscow, said that Russian human rights and opposition leaders who sent a letter of protest to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the U.S. Congress were confused about what happened at Radio Liberty. Neither an experienced journalist nor a Russian scholar, she was put in charge by Mr. Korn as Vice President for Program Content, Distribution and Marketing after he fired veteran journalists and Eurasia experts who previously occupied some of the senior positions at Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty and whom he called privately “old white guys.”

BBG members rebuked Mr. Korn for this “old white guys” comment and quietly reversed some, but not all of his personnel decisions in Prague, but at that time the majority strongly resisted calls from at least two BBG members to fire him over the incident and his earlier personnel decisions, which — according to our sources — they considered disastrous. BBG Watch has learned that BBG members have scheduled a special teleconference for later this week to discuss the latest crisis over the firings at the Radio Liberty Moscow bureau and Mr. Korn’s role.

“This is such a major crisis and public diplomacy disaster that it will be difficult for BBG members to ignore it,” one expert on U.S. international broadcasting told BBG Watch.

“On the other hand, they are responsible for ignoring clear signs of Mr. Korn’s complete unsuitability for this job. Admitting that they were responsible and reversing his decisions will be difficult for those BBG members who defended him earlier. Therefore, the final outcome of this public diplomacy crisis and the future of the outstanding and brave team of Radio Liberty journalists in Moscow are still unclear. It is also unclear whether the BBG will do anything to repair this terrible damage to Radio Liberty’s reputation and America’s image in Russia,” the expert said.

Mr. Korn issued a statement in which he implied that the fired Radio Liberty employees were treated with great respect and made the following observation:

“Though we have said good-bye to some of our journalists and other colleagues, we are thankful to have had the benefit of their creativity and dedication over the years and hope they will continue to contribute their voices and ideas to the public forum.”

But some of the fired journalists said they were humiliated by being fired in a law firm office in Moscow and prevented from returning to work, and one independent Russian journalist described Mr. Korn’s statement as mockery.

The list of fired journalists and employees of the Radio Liberty Moscow Bureau was sent to BBG Watch by some of them along with the photograph taken on the day of the mass firing.

Radio Liberty Moscow — Partial List of Journalists and Other Staffers Who Were Fired or Resigned

Michael Sokolov – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty political show,
President Yeltsin personally handed him the license for Radio Liberty broadcasting
in Russia in recognition of his role in live reporting during the communist coup in 1991

Elena Rykovtseva – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty news show

Vitaly Portnikov – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty news show

Marina Timasheva – one of the best expert on Russian culture, the
editor and presenter of cultural programs on Radio Liberty

Anna Kachkaeva – on air personality, university professor and dean, expert on Russian
media, host on Radio Liberty programs on media issues, including social media, organized BBG seminar for Russian journalists on using social media to report on migrant ethnic workers in Russia (resigned herself)

Elena Fanaylova – poet, on air personality, the host of the show Liberty in
Clubs (resigned herself)

Veronika Bode – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty Public Opinion Program

Danila Galperovich – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty program Face to Face

Ivan Trefilov – one of the best observer of economics news in Moscow
(resigned himself)

Kristina Gorelik – experienced human rights reporter, the host of the Radio Liberty
show Third Sector

Vladimir Abarbanell – the coordinator of the Radio Liberty correspondent network in
Russia, editor and presenter of the Radio Liberty program about Russian regions –
Correspondent Hour

Valeria Shabaeva – the editor and presenter of the Radio Liberty program Press Review

Andrey Trukhan – editor of the evening Radio Liberty political show

Lubov Chizhova – Radio Liberty special correspondent

Vitaly Kamyshev – Radio Liberty special correspondent

Mumin Shakirov – Radio Liberty special correspondent

Ludmila Telen – the chief editor of the Radio Liberty website and social media

Alexander Kulygin – Radio Liberty cameraman, video editor

Nikita Tatarsky – Radio Liberty cameraman, video editor (resigned himself)

Marina Petrushko – Radio Liberty’s specialist on Internet and social media promotion

Alexey Kuznetsov – editor of Radio Liberty’s website and online content, sports expert

Yury Vasiliev – editor of Radio Liberty’s website

Michael Shevelev – editor of Radio Liberty’s website

Tatiana Skorobogatko – editor of Radio Liberty’s website

Alexey Morgun – editor of Radio Liberty’s website

Nairi Ovsepian – editor of Radio Liberty’s website

Yury Timofeev – Radio Liberty photographer

Daria Zharova – Radio Liberty news service

Eugenia Melnikova – Radio Liberty news service

Maria Stroykova – Radio Liberty news service

Ekaterina Evseeva – Radio Liberty news service

Yulia Ivanchenkova – Radio Liberty news coordinator

Ekaterina Skariatina – Radio Liberty news coordinator

Elena Kolupaeva – Radio Liberty sound chief editor

Ekaterina Visotskaya – Radio Liberty sound editor

Dmitry Nalitov – Radio Liberty sound editor

Valery Proydakov – Radio Liberty sound editor

Alexander Orlov-Sokolsky – Radio Liberty sound editor

Ilia Tochkin – Radio Liberty technical director (postponed to 31 Dec)

Bella Kaloeva – Radio Liberty administration (postponed to 10 Nov)

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