Russian media report that President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Steven Korn was fired by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) for destroying the Russian Service of Radio Liberty. The news of Korn’s imminent departure from RFE/RL was reported first several days ago by BBG Watch quoting well-informed sources within BBG. The BBG is a federal agency which controls RFE/RL and hired Korn.
The Russian edition of Forbes reported Tuesday that President of Radio Liberty will lose his post after “destroying” the Russian Service: Президент радио «Свобода» покинет свой пост после «развала» русской службы. Читайте подробнее на Forbes.ru, Forbes.ru, Dec. 25, 2012.
Gazeta.ru reported: Media: Stephen Korn, who harmed Radio Liberty “more than Putin,” stepping down as head of the radio station. Источники: Стивен Корн, навредивший радио «Свобода» «больше, чем Путин», покидает пост главы радиостанции, Gazeta.ru, Dec. 25, 2012.
The Kremlin’s external radio service Voice of Russia also reported that President and CEO of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe Steven Korn has been relieved of his duties. Voice of Russia reports that the Moscow office of Radio Liberty “is dead in all respects,” citing an article by Judy Bachrach in the Washington-based World Affairs journal.
Other Russian media also report that Korn had destroyed the Moscow bureau of Radio Liberty.
Korn fired dozens of Radio Liberty Moscow bureau journalists and accused them to the BBG of being resistant to digital change. The fired Radio Liberty Internet team was later awarded one of the Sakharov human rights journalism prizes for its online reporting.
Meanwhile, the Sakharov awards were ignored by the replacement Internet team headed by the new Russian Service director Masha Gessen who had been appointed by Korn, as her newly-redesigned website lost more than half of its previous visitors, according to Russian media reports citing open online statistics.
Gessen, who according to media reports also had lost website visitors for her previous employer, explained to BBG officials in Washington that the Sakharov human rights journalism awards are “no longer a high profile event in Russia,” while her team kept on the home page for days an old story about romantic escapades of a university professor from the United States. The story was illustrated with drawings of young sexy women. After a visit to Washington, Gessen said in Russian media interviews that the BBG was very satisfied with her and had no plans to review the situation at Radio Liberty in Moscow. A BBG member later said that these claims by Gessen are stunning and totally untrue.
Nearly all Russian human rights and opposition political leaders, including Mikhail Gorbachev, condemned the firing of journalists and Gessen’s programming changes at Radio Liberty.
Steven Korn also ordered the firing of several journalists at the RFE/RL Kazakh Service and recommended use of private contractors who, according to a report in the World Affairs journal, had produced “pathetically smutty videos,” which were later removed from the RFE/RL website after they created a moral outrage in Kazakhstan, a largely Muslim country.
Programming changes at RFE/RL are overseen by Korn’s closest deputy, vice president for content Julia Ragona — who, according to Russian media reports and RFE/RL staffers, has no substantive journalistic experience. She and vice president for administration Dale Cohen were responsible for organizing the firing of Russian journalists in Moscow. They used security guards to bar journalists from entering their news offices and prevented them from saying good bye to their radio and online audience of many years.
Russian and International Media on Radio Liberty Crisis, Dec. 25, 2012, PDF.