BBG Watch Commentary

Fired Radio Liberty journalists are providing multimedia human rights news coverage in Russia that the official Russian Radio Liberty, led by Masha Gessen, is unable or unwilling to deliver.

Gessen appears to have been busy lately traveling abroad, receiving awards, promoting her writing, and posting her personal views on her Facebook page on such topics as legalization of multi-partner marriages. Her team in Moscow appears to have relatively little experience in political reporting using audio and video.

This past weekend, Radio Liberty in Exile covered and posted on its website videos from a press conference of human rights activists and civil society leaders: Ludmila Alexeeva, Lev Ponomarev, Lev Gudkov, Svetlana Gannushkina, Georgy Satarov, and Karina Moskalenko.

The human rights event was not covered by the Gessen team in Moscow, which usually does little work on weekends judging by important news stories that are missed or only briefly covered.

But overall, coverage on the official Russian Liberty has improved somewhat since Kevin Klose took over as acting president of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Taboid feature stories with images of semi-naked women designed to attract a younger audience (it did not work) have disappeared from the site and Radio Liberty journalists in Prague, who were not fired, have provided some substantive news coverage. It is, however, not enough to win back the lost online audience and reputation.

During the press conference in Moscow, various pro-democracy leaders said that Putin’s regime began a war against civil society in Russia. Most of these leaders are boycotting the official Radio Liberty and have demanded the re-hiring of the fired journalists.

Radio Liberty in Exile journalists recorded and posted several YouTube videos from the human rights press conference.

Working as unpaid volunteers, they had provided earlier a superior analysis of the suspected Boston terror bombers links to Chechnya. They interviewed experts in the United States and in Russia and posted videos of these interviews on their website, Novaya Svoboda (New Liberty). The official Russian Radio Liberty had practically no original multimedia material on the story.

Fired Radio Liberty journalists also covered Alexei Navalny’s political trial in Kirov, also posting numerous photos, videos and interviews.