BBG Watch Commentary

Radio Liberty in Exile Facebook Photo
Radio Liberty n Exile

After much internal debate, journalists of Radio Liberty in Exile issued a statement on their meeting in Moscow last Tuesday with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) acting president Kevin Klose. Journalists who had been fired last September by Klose’s predecessor and their colleagues who had resigned in protest were concerned about not violating an agreement on holding an off the record meeting. As journalists, they were also in a difficult position of reporting on a discussion which specifically concerned them and their future.

Sources told BBG Watch that Radio Liberty in Exile journalists apparently wanted to avoid offending Kevin Klose who, according to sources, made a very positive impression on the group during their nearly five hour meeting on Tuesday.

The journalists reportedly consulted American media experts who advised them that they had a journalistic obligation to report the basic facts without disclosing what both sides said during the meeting if it had been agreed beforehand that the discussion was to remain off the record.

Some of the journalists know Kevin Klose personally from his earlier tenure as RFE/RL president in the 1990s and have a very high regard for him as a Russia expert and media executive. They also have high hopes that he will save Radio Liberty’s reputation and its future in Russia, a former RFE/RL manager told BBG Watch.

Kevin Klose
Kevin Klose

Kevin Klose, himself a distinguished journalist who had been a Washington Post correspondent in the Soviet Union and had served as CEO at National Public Radio (NPR), could hardly object to a journalistic report stating the basic facts that a meeting took place and who participated, one expert reportedly told the group to allay their concerns on how to phrase their statement.

Radio Liberty in Exile posted its revised statement Thursday on its website, Novaya Svoboda (New Liberty) and on its Facebook page.

BBG Watch had reported earlier, based on information received from a supporter of fired Radio Liberty journalists, that the meetings in Moscow on Tuesday were highly emotional for both sides. Kevin Klose had met earlier on the same day with leading Russian human rights activists and democratic political figures who support the fired journalists and are demanding their return to Radio Liberty.

After the mass dismissals last September, the U.S. taxpayer-funed station has lost much of its audience in Russia under its new director Masha Gessen who was selected last September by Klose’s predecessor Steven Korn. In December, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasting reportedly asked Korn to resign. Korn claims he resigned on his own for personal reasons, denounces his critics and defends Masha Gessen. The BBG hired Kevin Klose in January.

Radio Liberty’s Russian Service is now being boycotted by many independent Russian intellectuals and journalists who are opposed to President Putin’s authoritarian rule. They are critical of programming changes made by Gessen and want to express their solidarity with the fired Radio Liberty reporters. They are particularly upset by the manner in which the journalists were fired using security guards and prevented from saying good bye to their audience. The former RFE/RL management team denies these charges and insists that they treated the journalists with utmost respect.

Kevin Klose is expected to make his report to the Broadcasting Board of Governors on Friday in a closed session. Radio Liberty in Exile journalists hope that he will recommend their return to Radio Liberty and a resumption of some of their former radio and online programs. These programs, according to leading human rights activist and one of this year’s nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize Lyudmila Alexeeva, are desperately needed because of president Putin’s severe clampdown on free press and political freedoms. Alexeeva, a legendary human rights activist and regular former contributor to Radio Liberty programs, is one of many pro-democracy Russian leaders who are boycotting the station and demanding the return of the fired journalists.

RFE/RL President Met with Human Rights Activists and Dismissed Radio Liberty Journalists

(unofficial translation)

(new published version)

On February 19, the president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Kevin Klose and the deputy director of the IBB (International Broadcasting Bureau) Jeff Trimble, who were visiting Moscow in an attempt to figure out the situation of Radio Liberty’s Russian Service, met with Russian human rights activists, politicians, and experts.

The meeting took place at the Human Rights Center “Memorial.” The meeting was attended by Ludmila Alexeeva, Sergei Kovalev, Lev Gudkov, Lilia Shevtsova, Galina Mikhaleva, Garry Kasparov, Boris Nemtsov, Aleksandr Cherkasov, and Olga Zdravomyslova.

The discussion concerned ways of resolving the crisis in the Russian Service of Radio Liberty.

Shortly after the first meeting, Kevin Klose and Jeff Trimble met with representatives of staffers who had been fired from the Moscow bureau of Radio Liberty and those who had resigned in protest. The meeting took place behind closed door. Both sides agreed not to record the discussion.

All present were given the opportunity to express their opinion on the events that took place at Radio Liberty and on the current situation of the Russian Service.

Radio Liberty in Exile was represented during the meeting by Mikhail Sokolov, ex moderator of the program “Time of Politics,” a columnist and former editor of the “Above Barriers” program Marina Timasheva, ex chief editor of the Radio Liberty Internet site Ludmila Telen, former director of the regional correspondents network Vladimir Abarbanell, former technical director Ilia Tochkin, a TV analyst and dean of the Media Communication Department of the Higher School of Economics Anna Kachkaeva, former editor and host of the program “Freedom in the Clubs” Elena Fanailova who had left Radio Liberty in solidarity with her fired colleagues, and investigative reporter Anastasia Kirilenko.

Summing up the four hour meeting, the current president of RFE/RL expressed extreme concern about the situation in the Russian Service as well as his intention to use all his experience in order to solve the problems that have emerged.

On Friday, Kevin Klose and Jeff Trimble will participate in a BBG meeting which will be held in Washington.

Президент RFERL встретился с правозащитниками и уволенными журналистами РС

(публикуется в новой редакции)

19 февраля президент Радио Свободная Европа/Радио Свобода Кевин Клоуз и заместитель директора IBB (International Broadcasting Bureau) Джефф Тримбл, приехавшие в Москву для того, чтобы изучить ситуацию, сложившуюся в Русской службе РС, встретились с российскими правозащитниками, политиками и экспертами.

Встреча проходила в помещении правозащитного центра «Мемориал. В ней приняли участие: Людмила Алексеева, Сергей Ковалев, Лев Гудков, Лилия Шевцова, Галина Михалева, Гарри Каспаров, Борис Немцов, Александр Черкасов, Ольга Здравомыслова.

Речь на встрече шла о путях вывода из кризиса Русской службы РС. Разговор продолжался более двух часов.

Чуть позже Кевин Клоуз и Джефф Тримбл встретились с представителями уволенных и ушедших в знак протеста сотрудников Московского бюро Радио Свобода. Встреча проходила при закрытых дверях. По согласованию сторон запись разговора не велась.

При этом всем присутствовавшим была предоставлена возможность высказать свое мнение о событиях, происходивших на РС, и о нынешнем состоянии Русской службы.

Во встрече со стороны группы «Радио Свобода в изгнании» участвовали политический обозреватель, экс-ведущий программы «Время политики» Михаил Соколов, обозреватель, бывший редактор программы «Поверх барьеров» Марина Тимашева, бывший главный редактор сайта РС Людмила Телень, бывший руководитель региональной корреспондентской сети Владимир Абарбанель, бывший технический директор Илья Точкин, телеобозреватель, декан факультета медиакоммуникаций Высшей школы экономики Анна Качкаева, покинувшая Радио Свобода в знак солидарности с уволенными коллегами, бывший редактор и ведущий программы “Свобода в клубах” Елена Фанайлова и инвестигативный журналист Анастасия Кириленко.

Подводя итоги 4-часовой встречи, Кевин Клоуз заявил, что крайне озабочен ситуацией в Русской службе РС и намерен использовать весь свой опыт для решения возникших проблем.

В пятницу Кевин Клоуз и Джефф Тримбл примут участие в очередном заседании BBG, которое пройдет в Вашингтоне.