BBG Watch Commentary

Young journalists, most of them women, from countries without free media are criticizing senior management of U.S. taxpayer-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and its managing U.S. federal agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), for allowing post-Soviet regimes’ propaganda to “break into” their programs. Other journalists complain of similar problems at BBG-run Voice of America (VOA). Executives in charge of the BBG dismiss such charges from their current and former journalist-employees as being beyond ludicrous.

From a Facebook post by former RFE/RL Kazakh Service journalist Assem Tokayeva:


“Indeed, many EU parliament members pay strong attention when I tell them how post-Soviet regimes’ propaganda broke into U.S.-funded media organization such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which [are] meant to promote freedom and democracy by reporting uncensored news in countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. But the Kazakh Service of RFE/RL lost its credibility in Kazakhstan because for a long time it does not adhere to principles of ethical and independent journalism.”




“The RFE/RL’s President Thomas Kent and his Deputy Nenad Pejic are well aware of my concerns that the Kazakh Service of RFE/RL, locally known as Radio Azattyq or Azattyq, does not provide fair and objective news, responsible discussion, and open debate.”


Assem Tokayeva is telling members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg that RFE/RL executives in Prague, Czech Republic, and their bosses at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) U.S. federal agency in Washington, currently led by BBG CEO John F. Lansing and his deputy Jeff Trimble, have failed to address what she sees as serious problems in U.S. international outreach to countries without free media.

Jaromír Štětina, a Czech journalist, writer and politician, was one of the members of the European Parliament, young women journalists visited. Another one was Clare Moody, member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the South West England.

In another Facebook post, Tokayeva wrote:


Jaromír Štětina, member of EU parliament from the Czech Republic, said to me he knows about the situation at #RFE/RL where principled journalists are being either suppressed or can be fired only because of disagreement with their bosses. He already spoke up for some of former journalists of #rferl #czechrepublic #stoppropaganda at #azattyq Депутат Европарламента от Чехии Яромир Стетина, легендарный чешский журналист, знает о ситуации с подавлением свободы слова на Радио Свободная Европа/Радио Свобода @ Parlement Européen – Strasbourg


Several award-winning women reporters have recently quit RFE/RL expressing their frustration with the senior management and their treatment of the media outlet’s journalists.

The RFE/RL management has also come under severe criticism from several former participants in the prestigious Vaclav Havel Fellowship at the organization.

Similar Problems at VOA

BBG-run Voice of America (VOA) has also been a target of severe criticism from Chinese audiences and a media freedom NGO over charges of alleged senior management’s censorship of April 19, 2017 interview with Chinese businessman Guo Wengui. VOA’s senior management took disciplinary actions against a group of VOA Mandarin Service journalists who disagreed with their decision to shorten the live interview with the whistleblower.

BBG CEO John Lansing has previously dismissed criticism of BBG outlets accusing them of caving in to pressure from authoritarian regimes as being beyond ludicrous.

Tomorrow, April 19, 2018, is the one-year anniversary of the Guo Wengui interview being cut short by VOA’s senior management.

VOA Director Amanda Bennett insists that the only reason for her order to shorten the live interview was to uphold good journalistic practices. Three VOA Mandarin Service journalists are still on forced administrative leave over this incident.

One of them, VOA Mandarin Service Chief, Dr. Sasha Gong, who is on forced leave with pay, published an op-ed in The Washington Times, titled “The most hazardous job in the federal government,” in which she said that Chinese American journalists working for the Voice of America and the Broadcasting Board of Governors face dangers not only from China’s communist government but also from their own BBG/VOA management in Washington.

VOICE OF AMERICA MANAGEMENT: “On the matter of the Guo Wengui interview”:

“We cannot comment on ongoing personnel matters to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. However, what we can share is that the Broadcasting Board of Governors retained Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP, to conduct an investigation into the April 2017 VOA Mandarin service broadcast of an interview with Chinese dissident Guo Wengui. As part of the process, Gordon Rees also retained Mark Feldstein of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill School of Journalism to conduct an independent investigation of the journalistic practices used in the April 2017 VOA Mandarin service broadcast. The investigations found that VOA management’s actions were not in any way driven by pressure from the Chinese government, but instead were intended to enforce best industry-wide journalistic practices. While we cannot release the investigations, as is the usual practice in these cases, copies of the documents relied upon have been provided to the people in question.”

See Assem Tokayeva’s post HERE.