BBG – USAGM Watch Commentary

More than a year ago U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEO John F. Lansing, a holdover official from the Obama administration, received a warning from an independent journalist and international media expert about public criticism of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Central Asian services being voiced by Asem Tokayeva, an independent Kazakh journalist. Tokayeva said that she was forced out by the management from her position as an editor at the RFE/RL Kazakh Service after she and other RFE/RL journalists complained that U.S. taxpayer-funded RFE/RL Central Asian services were repeating and promoting propaganda of authoritarian regimes.

When told about these complaints in May of last year, John Lansing responded in an e-mail:



USAGM CEO John F. Lansing. He joined USAGM (then known as BBG) as CEO and Director in September 2015.



USAGM CEO JOHN LANSING, E-MAIL, May 9, 2018: “You do not have my permission to contact me via my personal email.  If I believed you were an honest critic or a professional journalist I would welcome the connection. You are neither. Please stop emailing this private address immediately.”



On June 5, 2019, John Lansing had a stern look on his face as former RFE/RL Kazakh Service editor, independent journalist Asem Tokayeva, addressed in a public meeting in Washington, D.C. the Board of Governors of the $800 million U.S. government agency in charge of media outreach abroad. John Lansing has been in his position since 2015. The agency, previously called the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), has had a number of management and programming scandals during the last few years. Many of them have originated under Lansing’s watch.



ASEM TOKAYEVA, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST, MEDIA FREEDOM ADVOCATE, FORMER RFE/RL KAZAKH SERVICE EDITOR: Today I made a statement to U.S. Agency for Global Media – USAGM on the crisis in the Central Asian languages services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, calling for structural reforms at the US international broadcasting system to save #RFERL and its journalists from corruption and violations of its Mission to provide fair and objective news and to protect democratic values in regions with un-free press.





A few days after her statement to the USAGM Board, Asem Tokayeva reported more bad news about RFE/RL.



INDEPENDENT KAZAKH JOURNALIST ASEM TOKAYEVA: RFE/RL slept through night rallies in Kazakhstan



When Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s leadership claims that its Kazakh service is the only one media in Kazakhstan, which reports about local protests, it is not more than an eyewash. RFE/RL’s Kazakh service (Radio Azattyq or #Azattyq) again failed to cover ongoing demonstrations, that this time took place during the night of 10 to 11 June, 2019 in Almaty.