BBG Watch Commentary

German domestic’s public radio Deutschlandfunk reported recently on widespread accusations made by independent journalists against U.S. tax-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that RFE/RL Tajik and Kazakh services repeated and helped to promote propaganda in favor of authoritarian regimes. For its report, the German public broadcaster interviewed former RFE/RL Kazakh Service journalist Asem Tokayeva who says that she was forced out by RFE/RL for trying to alert the station’s U.S. management to these problems.

[ref]Schlager, Von Edda. “Instrumentalisierter Freiheitssender.” Deutschlandfunk, 02 05.2019, Accessed 28 05. 2019.[/ref]



RFE/RL’s senior, mid-level and lower-level management that reportedly retaliated against Tokayeva and allowed these journalistic violations to continue for several years was headed by an American executive appointed by U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO John Lansing who during that time has had the ultimate responsibility for all U.S. government-funded foreign media outreach. In the past, Lansing had ignored some warnings or failed to take prompt actions to correct these and other violations of journalistic standards at RFE/RL and at the Voice of America (VOA). In some cases he took partial damage control steps only after mainstream media started to make inquiries and report on programming and management scandals under his watch.

When alerted privately a year ago by an independent journalist about Asem Tokayeva’s concerns with regard to RFE/RL’s Central Asian services, Lansing lashed back by accusing the journalist of bad faith and lack of journalistic credentials.

In an e-mail dated more than a year ago, May 9, 2018, Lansing told the journalist who tried to warn him to stop contacting him:

“You do not have my permission to contact me via my personal email. If I believed you were an honest critic or a professional journalist I would welcome the connection. You are neither. Please stop emailing this private address immediately. John F. Lansing”

Pro-regime propaganda in RFE/RL Central Asian programs continued for nearly another year until Asem Tokayeva’s concerns and additional reporting by BBG – USAGM Watch caught the attention of mainstream media in the United States and in Europe.

A simple Google Translate check of some of the RFE/RL Kazakh Service reports highlighted by Tokayeva, if done by John Lansing a year ago or in response to even much earlier commentaries by BBG – USAGM Watch, would have shown that in some cases and in some services RFE/RL was spreading propaganda in favor of authoritarian regimes. John Lansing has been USAGM CEO since 2015.


John Lansing’s response on May 9, 2018 to an e-mail from an independent journalist regarding warnings from Kazakh journalist Asem Tokayeva about RFE/RL Kazakh Service.