BBG Watch Commentary

David Satter
David Satter
Lyudmila Alexeeva
Lyudmila Alexeeva

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) new acting president Kevin Klose has invited Lyudmila Alexeeva and David Satter to speak at a panel discussion at the RFE/RL office in Washington, DC on March 1 to mark the 60th anniversary of Radio Liberty’s first Russian broadcast.

Lyudmila Alexeeva is a famous Russian human rights activist, nominated as a candidate for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

David Satter is a former Moscow correspondent and Russia scholar. He is now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a fellow of the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Both Alexeeva and Satter have been among the first and the strongest supporters of fired Radio Liberty Russian journalists and outspoken critics of the previous RFE/RL management team.

Both have demanded that fired journalists be returned to their former jobs at Radio Liberty and protested against programming changes initiated by Masha Gessen, the new director of the Russian Service appointed by former RFE/RL president Steven Korn.

Kevin Klose has known Alexeeva and Satter for a long time and he met with her and other Russian leaders in Moscow last week. He also had a separate meeting in Moscow last week with representatives of fired Radio Liberty journalists and some of their colleagues who resigned in protest.

In an interview on Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy with fired Radio Liberty political reporter Mikhail Sokolov, David Satter said that the actions of the previous RFE/RL management resulted in “a huge loss for American public diplomacy. These decisions cannot be tolerated and accepted as a fait accompli.”

After firing dozens of journalists in Moscow, Steven Korn announced last September that RFE/RL is “not giving up on our commitment to provide you with Svoboda’s unique perspective on news and events in Russia.” He added that “big changes are indeed under way” and that Masha Gessen “will be working with the Svoboda team to bring a new energy and focus to our content while staying true to the Svoboda tradition of providing a media alternative where it is most needed.”

The staff dismissal and changes have resulted, however, in a boycott of Radio Liberty by leading Russian human rights activists and democratic political leaders. Mikhail Gorbachev and other prominent Russians protested against the new editorial policy and many former Radio Liberty supporters stopped visiting the redesigned Russian Service website.

Speaking of the previous RFE/RL management team, Freedom House president David Kramer said that “nothing short of major change is required, meaning a complete housecleaning of the top leadership. The damage they have done is immeasurable,” Kramer concluded.

Lyudmila Alexeeva wrote to Kevin Klose that “Gessen and Ragona do not understand the organization’s mission, and, in my opinion, should leave their posts.” But both the current Russian Service director and RFE/RL vice president for content Julia Ragona, who were elevated to their positions by Klose’s predecessor Steven Korn, insist that they are better qualified than their critics to transform Radio Liberty in Russia.

The consensus among many Russia experts is that they have ruined Radio Liberty’s reputation, effectiveness and audience in Russia and that famous Russian human rights leader Lyudmila Alexeeva, David Satter and other critics have been right all along. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Kevin Klose should be applauded for hosting the anniversary ceremony in Washington for Radio Liberty and for inviting Alexeeva and Satter to participate. This is indeed a good sign.


Russia expert David Satter offers scathing criticism of RFE/RL president Steven Korn

RFE/RL president invites famous supporter of fired Radio Liberty journalists to anniversary event

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
and its
Board of Directors

invite you to join with us
for a historic celebration:

The 60th Anniversary of 
Radio Liberty’s first broadcast to Russia

March 1, 2013
12:00PM – 1:30PM

RFE/RL’s Washington office
1201 Connecticut Ave NW, 4th Floor
[entrance on Rhode Island Ave NW, next to St. Matthew’s Cathedral]



The celebration will feature a

Dialogue on Liberty

Russian human rights leader
Nobel Peace Prize nominee

Lyudmila Alekseyeva

journalist and author

David Satter

or call +1.202.457.6901

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC  20036
tel: +1.202.457.6900  *  *  fax: +1.202.457.6992