BBG Watch Commentary
BBG Watch has learned that it took some persuading on the part of Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member Victor Ashe to get the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executive staff to post his comments about successful reforms at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) under new acting president Kevin Klose.
IBB executives omitted his comments from the BBG press release issued after Wednesday’s open board meeting. BBG Watch posted his comments in full, including video, shortly after the meeting.
IBB staff finally posted a press release on Ashe’s comments on Thursday. Agency sources told us that it took several emails from Ashe to get his comments posted.
IBB executive staff is deeply annoyed with Ashe’s criticism of their performance and his efforts to root out corruption and increase transparency and accountability. Sources told us that IBB executives can’t wait to see Ashe leave the board. Some of them may have been involved in persuading the White House personnel office to replace him. Ashe cannot be replaced, however, until his proposed replacement, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, is confirmed by the Senate. Employee groups, including the BBG’s employee union, AFGE Local 1812, have written to leaders of both parties in the U.S. Senate to keep Ashe on the BBG board for as long as possible.
IBB top executives who can’t stand Victor Ashe are likely to be even more annoyed because leading Russian human rights activists and independent journalists are planning an event for Friday in Moscow to recognize his contribution to saving Radio Liberty’s mission and to the promotion of freedom of expression in Russia.
IBB executives ignored the crisis at Radio Liberty in Russia as it developed last year when former RFE/RL management fired dozens of journalists and canceled their pro-human rights programs. It took an action by Ashe, two other BBG governors, Susan McCue and Michael Meehan, and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine, to initiate management reforms at RFE/RL.
BBG Press Release
BBG Governor Victor Ashe traveled to Prague from June 18-20 to update his first-hand knowledge of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (REF/RL) operations and meet with Czech and U.S. officials, including Czech First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Jiri Schneider and Political Counselor and Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Prague William Silkworth.
Commending RFE/RL Acting President Kevin Klose’s leadership, Governor Ashe told the BBG’s governing board, “I have spent a good deal of time speaking with staff and journalists here in Prague, and the change in morale and in attitude is truly a sea-change. The ship here in Prague has been righted, it’s been stabilized. There is now enthusiasm and a joy in the building to carry on the mission, which is the foundation of Radio Free Europe.”
Ashe, who also serves as Vice Chair of RFE/RL’s Board of Directors, met with news executives in charge of all 19 RFE/RL Services, which provide content via numerous broadcast and digital platforms to more than 23 million people speaking 28 languages in 21 countries. Ashe also met with a trio of young journalists working at RFE/RL as part of the Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship program, a joint project of RFE/RL and the Czech Foreign Ministry.
From Prague, Ashe traveled on to Moscow where will meet with RFE/RL and Voice of America journalists, as well as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Russia Sheila Gwaltney and with prominent Russian human rights activists including Lyudmila Alekseyeva and Sergei Kovalyov.
“I am looking forward to meeting with the Russian Language Service in Moscow and seeing how it is doing with its new leadership and personnel changes,” Ashe said.