BBG Watch Commentary

Mumin Shakirov
Mumin Shakirov

The Russian Service website of Radio Liberty has ignored the widely reported story of a new video in Russia showing a recent visit to the Nazi concentration camp by two young women who were previously ignorant about the World War II Jewish Holocaust.

The video was shot by an award-winning filmmaker Mumin Shakirov who had been fired from Radio Liberty last September.

Despite great interest shown in the story by independent media in Russia, Masha Gessen, the new director of the Russian Service, has not reported on the Holocaust video project in any of the articles on the service’s redesigned website, based on a site search conducted by BBG Watch Saturday morning Moscow time. BBG Watch was not able to check audio reports on the site.

Gessen’s associates have replaced Shakirov and dozens of other experienced Radio Liberty journalists fired last September. Their firing produced an outrage among human rights activists and opposition leaders in Russia.

The English-language website of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) had a report on the Holocaust video story, but it failed to mention that Mumin Shakirov had been fired by the previous RFE/RL management team which had also ignored his requests to film the project in Auschwitz for Radio Liberty.

The Russian news magazine Sovershenno secretno, which published some images and a video trailer from the visit to Auschwitz, reported that RFE/RL did not have permission to use their copyrighted material. This, however, would not have prevented Masha Gessen from simply reporting on the story, as it did not stop the RFE/RL English website from reporting on it.

Women News Network had the details of how the story originated from the RFE/RL English-language website:

“It was something of a wake-up call for many in Russia. In December 2011, a pair of pretty, articulate, 20-year-old twins from Vladimir Oblast were asked on a television game show, ‘What is the Holocaust?’ The two consulted together for a few awkward moments. One of them admitted frankly that the term ‘says nothing to them.’ Finally, with time running short, Yevgenia Karatygina turns to the camera and says, ‘We think that the Holocaust is wallpaper paste.'”

While still employed by RFE/RL, Mumin Shakirov brought the two young women to Radio Liberty for interviews after their famous TV appearance. He also suggested to the RFE/RL management taking them to the site of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz and doing a video project about the visit for Radio Liberty. His request was ignored. After he was fired a short time later, Shakirov obtained support for the project from a Polish foundation and a Russian independent news magazine.

RFERL Russian Home Page Story Illustration on Dangers of Meat Diet in the UK
Masha Gessen's Radio Liberty website tries to attract a young audience in Russia with such images

“That Masha Gessen would not devote a website article on Radio Liberty’s Russian Service to this very important story for the young generation of Russians who are growing up ignorant of the Jewish Holocaust is simply incredible,” said one former U.S. international broadcaster. “This kind of news coverage and analysis is exactly what Radio Liberty has always been doing and what American taxpayers still expect it to do,” he added.

“Let’s not forget that Radio Liberty is fully funded by U.S. taxpayers. Also keep in mind that the website of “Radio Gessen,” as Radio Liberty is now derisively called in Russia, has enough space for stories of romantic online adventures and dangers of a meat-heavy diet, which are illustrated with images of semi-nude women, but Masha Gessen says that, for example, the Andrei Sakharov human rights journalism awards are a low profile event in Russia and not worth of coverage by this American-funded station. We have to assume that she also considers the Holocaust video project a low profile media event,” a former broadcaster commented.

Mumin Shakirov told the Russian news platform that without bringing back the fired journalists, Radio Liberty cannot regain its former high journalistic standards.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasting, has appointed a distinguished journalist Kevin Klose as acting president of RFE/RL. He replaces Steven Korn who ordered the firing of Shakirov and dozens of other Radio Liberty journalists.

Russian-language media reports on Mumin Shakirov Auschwitz Holocaust video project:

Mumin Shakirov, Kholokost, klei dlia oboev? Sovershenno sekretno, January 28, 2013

Zhurnalist otvez ne znavshikh pro Kholokost devushek v Osvencim, Sinagoga, January 31, 2013

“Sovershenno sekretno” i zhurnalist Mumin Shakirov ne davali soglasiia Radio Svoboda, Sovershenno
, Novaia Svoboda, January 31, 2013

Mumin Shakirov: “Bez uvolennykh sotrudnikov ‘Svobody’ sokhranit’ vysokii uroven’ nevozmozhno,” Colta, Novaia Svoboda, February 1, 2013