BBG Watch Commentary
After a long absence to protest the mass firing of Radio Liberty journalists in September 2012, Russian human rights leader Lyudmila Alexeeva is again appearing in live interviews on the U.S.-funded media freedom station in Russia.
After the management that ordered the firings was replaced, the new acting Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president Kevin Klose has rehired some of the dismissed journalists. The interview dealing with current political issues in Russia was conducted by one of them, RFE/RL human rights reporter Kristina Gorelik.
Dozens of experienced and highly respected Radio Liberty journalists in Russia were fired without any warning last September and without being allowed to say good bye to their radio and online audiences of many years.
Lyudmila Alexeeva witnessed the firings as she was being interviewed at the time by Kristina Gorelik at the Radio Liberty Moscow office. Gorelik was among those journalists who had been fired. Their anti-corruption investigative journalism programs were canceled.
Alexeeva and other Russian human rights activists and democratic political leaders immediately protested the firings.
Mikhail Gorbachev expressed his concern.
Alexeeva and others wrote letters to the White House, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to members of Congress.
Alexeeva also confronted members of the previous RFE/RL management team during a meeting in Moscow and condemned their treatment of Radio Liberty employees. She suspended her regular weekly human rights program on Radio Liberty in protest against the actions of the then management of the station.
As the BBG’s executive staff in the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) in Washington stood idly by, the public relations and public diplomacy crisis in Russia over the firings and programming changes continued to escalate until members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors led by former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe intervened. They selected Kevin Klose, a former NPR executive who once also led RFE/RL, to serve as acting RFE/RL president for one year after members of the former management team had resigned.
Two BBG governors, Susan McCue and Michael Meehan, traveled to Moscow with Kevin Klose and met with Alexeeva, other human rights activists, and some of the fired journalists.
A few days later, visiting Secretary of State John Kerry, who served as an ex officio member of the BBG, also met with Alexeeva. Victor Ashe also met with her on his later visit to Moscow.
Victor Ashe was presented Glasnost Award from the President of the Glasnost Defense Foundation Alexey Simonov as a “token of gratitude for his defense of glasnost in Russia.” Ashe responded that he was grateful but accepted it on behalf of those who stayed the course during the unfortunate time of the prior Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty leadership. “What happened was terrible for Radio Liberty but it is now over and we must concentrate on the future,” Ashe said.
Top IBB officials who allowed the crisis in Russia to get out of control are still in their positions in Washington. Victor Ashe may soon depart his post due to what many suspect was a bureacratic revenge for his defense of Radio Liberty journalists and criticism of former RFE/RL and current IBB officials who allowed the crisis in Moscow to happen. Some former BBG members who had strongly supported the former RFE/RL management which conducted the firings resigned for reasons they said were unrelated to the Radio Liberty meltdown.
Many of the fired journalists have been rehired by Kevin Klose. Lyudmila Alexeeva is once again appearing in live interviews on Radio Liberty. She deserves admiration for her steadfast fight against injustice. Thank you Ms. Alexeeva.