BBG Watch Commentary
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) staffers are having a big laugh over their president and CEO Steven Korn’s apparently inadvertent forwarding to all RFE/RL employees an email sent to him by Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member Victor Ashe.
In the email forwarded by Korn to all of his subordinates, apparently by mistake, Ashe tells him: “While it is nice to get this, major and troubling issues remain over the Moscow situation which does not seem to improve. It is not a good way to approach the holiday season. The Board is not being fully informed I regret to say. Victor Ashe.”
Ashe’s email refers to an earlier email from Korn in which he brags about Radio Farda’s “Breakfast With News” program successfully going on the air in collaboration with the Voice of America’s satellite television channel for Iran.
Ashe’s comment about “the Moscow situation” refers to the crisis brought about by Korn’s decision to fire dozens of Radio Liberty journalists in Russia using security guards and other coercive methods which Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeeva condemned as repugnant. Alexeeva personally witnessed the use of guards against Radio Liberty journalists.
Ashe’s critical email was no surprise to RFE/RL employees. Ashe had said earlier in an open BBG meeting that Korn united the human rights and dissident movement in Russia against him and made himself an enemy of even former president Mikhail Gorbachev. Ashe also had said earlier that Korn dealt in “a very callous manner” with 41 staffers he had terminated at the Radio Liberty news bureau in Moscow and has shown them no compassion and no sympathy. “This is not the way of a good manager,” Ashe said in an open BBG meeting. Ashe also complained that Korn has not provided the Strategy & Budget Committee with the information it requested from him.
In addition to protests from nearly all Russian human rights leaders and anti-Putin political figures, the Radio Liberty Russian Service website, now managed by Masha Gessen, is being boycotted by former supporters and has lost more than 60 percent of its audience since the mass dismissals in late September. Russian human rights and democratic leaders have issued statements and petitions to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. Congress protesting Korn’s actions.
The dismissed journalists formed a group Radio Liberty in Exile and started their own news website SvobodaNew.com. They have recently published an open letter to Korn in which they protest his dismissal of at least two fully qualified Radio Liberty Russian Service employees with disabilities. The disabled employees were replaced by less experienced associates of the new service director.
Ashe’s email implied that BBG members were not being fully informed by Korn these developments.
Korn apologized to RFE/RL staff for forwarding Ashe’s email. “I regret my mistake, one which has become all too frequent in today’s digital culture,” Korn wrote. His email continued, “More importantly, I regret that this email may have distracted you from my original point: to celebrate the new Farda program and the hard work that led to today’s launch.”
As a result of Korn’s mistake, email addresses of BBG members (except for Hillary Clinton) have been made known to all RFE/RL staffers as well as others, as Korn’s emails are now being widely circulated outside of the RFE/RL offices in the Czech Republic and in Russia.