BBG Watch Commentary

The Huffington Post, ranked #1 on the 15 Most Popular Political Sites list in the United States, has published an article by its Senior Media Reporter Michael Calderone on the Radio Liberty crisis, “Kevin Klose, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President, Hopes To Repair Russia Rift.”

The article includes quotes from Kevin Klose, former RFE/RL president and current CEO and president of the Legatum Institute Jeffrey Gedmin, former RFE/RL executive editor John O’Sullivan, and from the BBG Watch site published by former and current Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employees and other supporters of U.S. international broadcasting.

Michael Calderone quotes Kevin Klose as saying that he takes recent criticism and concerns from former Radio Liberty employees who were fired by his predecessor Steven Korn seriously, plans to look at ‘every issue and every piece’ of the Radio Liberty Russian Service before deciding the best way to move forward, but isn’t wiling to speak yet about how he’ll mend fences in Moscow.

Calderone quotes Jeffrey Gedmin as saying about Kevin Klose, “He’s going to have to develop his own strategy to fix it, and I don’t want be melodramatic, but it will take years for wounds to heal…People feel very damaged and very betrayed.”

Calderone quotes John O’Sullivan as saying, “like to see him [Kevin Klose] hire as many of the former RFE/RL people who have not got other good jobs and who want to come back.” That would include journalists who’ve since formed Radio Liberty in Exile. O’Sullivan said he’s “all in favor of competition,” but “these are people who’d be working with us, not in a position of opposition to us.”

The article also mentions BBG Watch.

“Meanwhile, BBG Watch, a site written by current and former employees, has harshly criticized Korn’s decision and what it views as the Russian service’s increasing focus on softer news and features at the expense of oppositional reporting on Putin’s government.”

We should point out that this is not just BBG Watch’s position but also that of nearly all leading Russian human rights activists and opposition political leaders, including Lyudmila Alexeeva (Alekseyeva) and Mikhail Gorbachev. Alexeeva, who has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, wrote recently to Kevin Klose.

“Like in the Soviet era, Radio Liberty is becoming the principal source of alternative information; however, the new management in Moscow, headed by M. Gessen, and Vice-President J. Ragona seem to be in cahoots with our oppressors. They insist on making our programming more entertainment-oriented. We are more than adequately entertained by government-owned television networks and radio stations. Human rights reportage and cogent political analysis is what we are lacking. The demand for coverage of these issues by the progressive part of our citizenry is not even closely satisfied by what is currently available. It is Radio Liberty’s responsibility to fulfill this role. Gessen and Ragona do not understand the organization’s mission, and, in my opinion, should leave their posts.”

Lyudmila Alexeeva, the head of the human rights Moscow Helsinki Group, strongly urged Kevin Klose to bring back the fired journalists and to restore their political and human rights programs.

In his article in The Huffington Post, Michael Calderone does not focus on the Russian human rights and democratic opposition movement’s views on the new leadership of Radio Liberty’s Russian Service installed by former RFE/RL president Steven Korn and his deputy Julia Ragona. He quotes, however, from World Affairs Journal article by Judy Bachrach who recently wrote that Korn, top aide Julia Ragona, and director of the Russian Service Masha Gessen had “wrecked an outfit that for decades has provided, as its name suggests, liberty.”

Korn who had left his RFE/RL post and Ragona who is still there insist that all Radio Liberty journalists resigned voluntarily and were treated with utmost respect. RFE/RL security guards had escorted the journalists out of their Moscow office and prevented them from saying good bye to their radio and online audiences of many years.

READ MORE: Kevin Klose, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President, Hopes To Repair Russia Rift – By Michael Calderone – The Huffington Post – February 5, 2013.