During a panel discussion in Moscow on Monday, Russian writer, human rights activist and former Soviet-era political prisoner Pavel Litvinov called on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president Steven Korn to bring back all Radio Liberty Russian Service journalists who were fired last month.
Speaking on behalf of other Russian human rights leaders who participated in the discussion, Litvinov said that the current situation at Radio Liberty is an invitation to failure and disaster. Considering the circumstances under which Radio Liberty journalists were fired, Litvinov said, the only way to rescue Radio Liberty is to restore them to their former jobs.
RFE/RL executives used guards and other coercive measures to fire more than thirty Radio Liberty Moscow bureau media staffers. Eight more journalists resigned to show solidarity with their colleagues. They are calling themselves Radio Liberty-in-Exile. Its members were protesting outside of the building where the discussion took place. Two of the fired journalists, Mikhail Sokholov and Marina Timasheva, participated in the panel and sharply condemned Korn and his deputy Julia Ragona.
Pavel Litvinov is the grandson of Maxim Litvinov, Joseph Stalin’s foreign minister during the 1930s. After his participation in the 1968 Red Square demonstration against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Litvinov was was sentenced to five years in the Gulag. After his sentence, Litvinov emigrated to the United States, where he continues to write and speak out on human rights issues.
Other human rights activists who participated in the discussion, including Lyudmila Alexeeva of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group and Sergei Kovalev, former member of the Russian parliament and former Soviet political prisoner said that RFE/RL president Steven Korn did not provide answers to any of their questions. Their conclusion was supported by Dr. Lev Gutkov, a renowned Russian sociologist, who also participated in the discussion.