BBG Watch Commentary
The Radio Liberty Russian Service director Masha Gessen told the Izvestia that firing her from her Radio Liberty job at the Russian Service, where she is the director appointed by RFE/RL president Steven Korn who has announced his resignation, would be impossible and his departure would not affect her future work at the station, the Russian newspaper reported online :
“The departure of Steven Korn from the presidency of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty will not affect the future work of Masha Gessen at the station. In response to the question of Izvestia, is her dismissal possible from the post of Director of the Russian Service, Masha Gessen said:
– Not possible.
Information that Steven Korn may resign, appeared in late December. Supposedly, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors was unhappy with the situation that has developed around the Russian Service of Radio Liberty. Masha Gessen then said in an interview with Izvestia that ‘she had received from him a letter with Christmas greetings. He also said that he would return to work immediately after the New Year.’
But today, Steven Korn said that in late January he plans to leave the company for personal reasons.
Masha Gessen became the head of the Russian Service of Radio Liberty in October 2012.”
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasting, including RFE/RL, might disagree with Gessen’s statement that the resignation of Steven Korn will have no effect on her future work at Radio Liberty. Even though Korn claimed in his resignation letter that he was leaving for personal reasons, BBG Watch and many other media reported that the BBG in fact asked him to resign and stripped him of the authority to fire employees after his actions produced a major crisis at RFE/RL and in Russia. Much will depend on what the next RFE/RL president will want to do to resolve the crisis produced by Korn and his closest aides, including Gessen. The crisis cannot be resolved without a rehabilitation of the fired journalists and their return to work, which they will not do as long as Gessen remains in charge and is able to fire staffers and silence her internal critics.
Earlier, Masha Gessen claimed in Russian media interviews that the Broadcasting Board of Governors did not order a review of the Russian Service under her leadership but merely a review of the situation in Russia and insisted that the BBG was very pleased with her performance.
BBG Governor Victor Ashe later told Russian media that her claims were “stunning” and “totally untrue.”
Gessen also attacked in Russian media interviews heads of American human rights and media freedom NGOs, particularly the executive director of the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB) Ann Noonan who criticized Steven Korn for firing dozens of journalists, including fully skilled staffers with disabilities.
Gessen did not protest when Korn fired more than 30 journalists but accused of slander those independent Russian news reporters and commentators who suggested that she might have been involved in some way in the dismissals. Slander was made recently a criminal offense in Russia under a new law signed by President Putin and widely believed to be aimed at silencing public criticism of the government and investigative reporting. She has turned against her and Radio Liberty under her management nearly all prominent human rights leaders and opposition political figures in Russia.
In later Russian media interviews Gessen claimed that the reports about Korn’s departure were nothing but rumors. After the official news of Korn’s resignation was announced, she bragged on her Facebook page how Izvestia reported her comment that firing her is impossible.
“Получаю смс от “Известий”: “Возможна ли ваша отставка в связи с отставкой Корна?” Отвечаю: “Нет”. Через полчаса на сайте заметка под заголовком “Моя отставка невозможна”. И в тексте: “Моя отставка невозможна”, – подчеркнула Гессен”. Gotta love these guys.
Received SMS (text message) from Izvestia: “Is your dismissal possible in connection with the dismissal of Korn?” The answer is: ‘No.’ After half an hour an online article titled ‘My dismissal is impossible.’ And in the text: ‘My dismissal is not possible” – said Gessen.’ Gotta love these guys.”
Gessen appears to be questioning whether her answer “No” to the question whether something is possible means that it is impossible. Izvestia, however, reported her answer as “Not Possible.” Earlier she was questioning Russian media reports whether they understood that the English word “review” does not really mean “inspection,” e.i. evaluation of Radio Liberty’s performance under her command by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Deputy Director Jeff Trimble. It does, as BBG Governor Ambassador Victor Ashe assured Russian reporters who asked him to comment.