BBG Watch Commentary

60 Years of Radio Liberty - Radio Liberty in Exile Banner
60 Years of Radio Liberty - Radio Liberty in Exile Banner

Even though they are not the official Radio Liberty, Radio Liberty in Exile was the first to post on the web materials marking the station’s 60th anniversary. Many in Russia see fired journalists who last September formed Radio Liberty in Exile as the real Radio Liberty upholding the traditions of the station and refer derisively to the official Radio Liberty as “Radio Gessen.” Since October 2012, Masha Gessen has been the controversial new director of the Radio Liberty Russian Service, which is now being boycotted by many Russian opposition leaders, intellectuals, artists and journalists.

Radio Liberty in Exile is planning a major event in Moscow on March 1 to mark the 60th anniversary of the first Radio Liberty Russian broadcast to the Soviet Union. It is expected to bring together many former and current Radio Liberty personalities, other independent Russian journalists, intellectuals, human rights activists and anti-Putin politicians. They are calling the anniversary event “From Stalin to Putin – Liberty Without Borders” and plan to stream it live online.

Kevin Klose
Kevin Klose

Radio Liberty in Exile journalists told reporters that they would have preferred to mark the anniversary as part of the official Radio Liberty family and want to avoid negative publicity. But because many former Radio Liberty personalities and famous Russians will not talk to Masha Gessen or give interviews to the official Radio Liberty, Radio Liberty in Exile website is likely to be the chief repository of special 60th anniversary audio and video recordings and articles. One of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize nominees, legendary human rights leader Lyudmila Alexeeva, is one of many Russians who are boycotting the official Radio Liberty.

Newly appointed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president Kevin Klose, who had a meeting in Moscow last Friday with representatives of the fired journalists, is believed to be working toward bringing them back to Radio Liberty. But because it is a complicated issue, it is unlikely that they will return to work before March 1. Fired journalists have high hopes that Klose, whom they respect as a distinguished journalist and manager, will soon find a workable solution to the crisis. Some worked at Radio Liberty when he was RFE/RL president in the 1990s. Sources told BBG Watch that Radio Liberty in Exile journalists would be delighted if Kevin Klose would attend their anniversary event.

Board members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency in Washington which selected Kevin Klose, are also believed to be in favor of returning the journalists to work and resolving the crisis as soon as possible. They see the dragging controversy as damaging to BBG’s and RFE/RL’s reputation and support abroad and in the United States. In September 2012, dozens of journalists at the Moscow bureau were fired by Klose’s predecessor, Steven Korn, and replaced by Masha Gessen and her team.

Klose has already announced his intention to promote serious civic and political journalism at RFE/RL. On Friday, he gave a report on his findings and plans to the BBG board members in a closed session in Washington.

Radio Liberty in Exile Facebook Photo
Radio Liberty in Exile Facebook Page and New Liberty Photo

While they wait for Kevin Klose to announce his next moves, fired journalists and their colleagues who resigned in protest and joined Radio Liberty in Exile are busy updating their Novaya Svoboda (New Liberty) website and Facebook page. They are also preparing for the 60 anniversary observances in Moscow which are likely to draw their supporters from among leading Russian human rights activists and democratic politicians. Mikhail Gorbachev was among many Russian leaders who protested against the firing of Radio Liberty journalists and recent editorial policy changes. During his visit to Moscow, Kevin Klose also met with Russian opposition figures who strongly support Radio Liberty in Exile journalists.

A special page on the Novaya Svoboda website includes an old Soviet propaganda film about Radio Liberty and comments from famous Radio Liberty radio personalities. Radio Liberty in Exile has also posted on its website the first Radio Liberty interview with Mikhail Gorbachev recorded in Munich in March 1992 by Savik Shuster, Vladimir Toltz and Frank Williams. In the interview, Gorbachev talks about the dangers post-Soviet hardliners pose to democracy in Russia.

LINK to Radio Liberty in Exile Novaya Svoboda 60th Anniversary Page.

Anti-Radio Liberty 1973 Soviet Propaganda Film