BBG Watch Commentary

Sources told BBG Watch that an independent Russian journalist who warned about a “pro-Putin” bias of the Voice of America Russian Service is new media scholar Dr. Nikolay Rudenskiy. Dr. Rudenskiy was hired by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in 2011 to evaluate the VOA Russian website. In a report, which was not shared with BBG members, Dr. Rudenskiy concluded that the Russian Service had a “pro-Putin bias” and downplayed human rights reporting. He wrote in his report that “the site provides little if any unique information or bright and perceptive comment, it appears rather mediocre in terms of journalistic quality or design, and it lacks focus on the topics where it potentially could excel.”

Dr. Rudenskiy’s main criticism, however, was directed at what he perceived as a bias in favor of the Kremlin. In his study, he gave several examples of VOA news reports based mostly on Russian official media that lacked an alternative American perspective. “Vice President’s [Biden] speech in Moscow University , in which he criticized Russia ‘s leadership on democracy and human rights, was clearly downplayed. The report on this event was titled ‘Joe Biden to Moscow Students: Future is Yours’; a headline as cheerful as meaningless, reminding of Soviet newspapers. What is worse, the report failed to mention that Biden spoke about the Khodorkovsky case as an example of Russia ‘s ‘legal nihilism’ – an important fact noted both in Russia and abroad. One might suspect that the omission was deliberate. If so, that could be regarded as a case of ‘pro-Russian’ (or, rather, pro-Putin) bias.”

Dr. Rudenskiy was a Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, which published the following biographical note about him: Nikolay Rudenskiy is the deputy editor of Grani.Ru (, an independent online media outlet. Trained as an ethnographer, he is the author of about 40 scholarly publications and more than 100 journalistic commentaries focusing mostly on public issues in today’s Russia, including defending freedom of the press, exposing persecution of the regime’s opponents and other human rights violations, and combating racism and other forms of bigotry. During his fellowship, Rudenskiy plans to compare and contrast various approaches to the issue of hate speech in Russia and the United States.

‘Pro-Putin bias’ Evaluation of VOA Russian Website by Dr. Nikolay Rudenskiy

BBG executives suppressed Dr. Rudenskiy’s study, as they had tried to suppress a similar study critical of Alhurra TV until they were forced by pressure from Congress to make it public. Dr. Rudenskiy’s study was identified by Ted Lipien, a former VOA acting associate director, in his op-ed “VOA Harms Putin Opposition in Russia” in The Washington Times. The article focused on a fake interview with a Russian anti-corruption lawyer and opposition leaders Alexei Navalny published by the VOA Russian website. The Russian Service removed the interview and apologized to Navalny who wrote in his Twitter account that “Voice of America has gone nuts” and that all…

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New media scholar Nikolay Rudenskiy is author of ‘pro-Putin Bias in VOA’ study