Fired Radio Liberty Moscow employees included famous journalists and digital media experts

Some of Radio Liberty Moscow journalists on the day of their dismissal

Some of Radio Liberty Moscow journalists on the day of their dismissal. From left to right: Ivan Tolstoy, Valdimir Abarbanell, Elena Fanailova, Veronika Bode, Elena Rykovtseva, Elena Kolepaeva, Andrey Trukhan, Yulia Ivanchenkova. Ivan Tolstoy is based in Prague and was not affected by this round of lay offs in Moscow.

BBG Watch Commentary

The new director of the Radio Liberty Russian Service, Russian American journalist, writer and gay rights advocate Masha Gessen, claims that she had nothing to do with firing of almost the entire staff of the Radio Liberty Moscow bureau. She has also accused one former Radio Liberty contributor and the fired editor-in-chief of the Russian website of slander for suggesting links between her and the mass firing because they happened after she was selected for the job but before she officially came on board. She continues to deny any direct role in the firings. Slander is a criminal offense in Russia under a new law signed by President Putin with fines up to $150,000.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Steven Korn and Vice President Julia Ragona insist that the reorganization of the Moscow bureau was done to prepare it for Radio Liberty’s new role in digital media in Russia after RFE/RL lost a medium wave (AM) radio frequency in Moscow under a new Russian media law. But the list of the fired employees (some resigned in protest) shows that the entire Internet and social media team was also dismissed along with some of the most famous Radio Liberty journalists. Russian human rights leaders, former President Mikhail Gorbachev and other opposition politicians protested the firings at Radio Liberty. The head of the liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy said that he would consider hiring some of the fired Radio Liberty broadcasters.

Ms. Ragona, who oversaw the firings in Moscow, said that Russian human rights and opposition leaders who sent a letter of protest to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the U.S. Congress were confused about what happened at Radio Liberty. Neither an experienced journalist nor a Russian scholar, she was put in charge by Mr. Korn as Vice President for Program Content, Distribution and Marketing after he fired veteran journalists and Eurasia experts who previously occupied some of the senior positions at Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty and whom he called privately “old white guys.”

BBG members rebuked Mr. Korn for this “old white guys” comment and quietly reversed some, but not all of his personnel decisions in Prague, but at that time the majority strongly resisted calls from at least two BBG members to fire him over the incident and his earlier personnel decisions, which — according to our sources — they considered disastrous. BBG Watch has learned that BBG members have scheduled a special teleconference for later this week to discuss the latest crisis over the firings at the Radio Liberty Moscow bureau and Mr. Korn’s role.

“This is such a major crisis and public diplomacy disaster that it will be difficult for BBG members to ignore it,” one expert on U.S. international broadcasting told BBG Watch.

“On the other hand, they are responsible for ignoring clear signs of Mr. Korn’s complete unsuitability for this job. Admitting that they were responsible and reversing his decisions will be difficult for those BBG members who defended him earlier. Therefore, the final outcome of this public diplomacy crisis and the future of the outstanding and brave team of Radio Liberty journalists in Moscow are still unclear. It is also unclear whether the BBG will do anything to repair this terrible damage to Radio Liberty’s reputation and America’s image in Russia,” the expert said.

Mr. Korn issued a statement in which he implied that the fired Radio Liberty employees were treated with great respect and made the following observation:

“Though we have said good-bye to some of our journalists and other colleagues, we are thankful to have had the benefit of their creativity and dedication over the years and hope they will continue to contribute their voices and ideas to the public forum.”

But some of the fired journalists said they were humiliated by being fired in a law firm office in Moscow and prevented from returning to work, and one independent Russian journalist described Mr. Korn’s statement as mockery.

The list of fired journalists and employees of the Radio Liberty Moscow Bureau was sent to BBG Watch by some of them along with the photograph taken on the day of the mass firing.

Radio Liberty Moscow — Partial List of Journalists and Other Staffers Who Were Fired or Resigned

Michael Sokolov – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty political show,
President Yeltsin personally handed him the license for Radio Liberty broadcasting
in Russia in recognition of his role in live reporting during the communist coup in 1991

Elena Rykovtseva – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty news show

Vitaly Portnikov – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty news show

Marina Timasheva – one of the best expert on Russian culture, the
editor and presenter of cultural programs on Radio Liberty

Anna Kachkaeva – on air personality, university professor and dean, expert on Russian
media, host on Radio Liberty programs on media issues, including social media, organized BBG seminar for Russian journalists on using social media to report on migrant ethnic workers in Russia (resigned herself)

Elena Fanaylova – poet, on air personality, the host of the show Liberty in
Clubs (resigned herself)

Veronika Bode – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty Public Opinion Program

Danila Galperovich – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty program Face to Face

Ivan Trefilov – one of the best observer of economics news in Moscow
(resigned himself)

Kristina Gorelik – experienced human rights reporter, the host of the Radio Liberty
show Third Sector

Vladimir Abarbanell – the coordinator of the Radio Liberty correspondent network in
Russia, editor and presenter of the Radio Liberty program about Russian regions -
Correspondent Hour

Valeria Shabaeva – the editor and presenter of the Radio Liberty program Press Review

Andrey Trukhan – editor of the evening Radio Liberty political show

Lubov Chizhova – Radio Liberty special correspondent

Vitaly Kamyshev – Radio Liberty special correspondent

Mumin Shakirov – Radio Liberty special correspondent

Ludmila Telen – the chief editor of the Radio Liberty website and social media

Alexander Kulygin – Radio Liberty cameraman, video editor

Nikita Tatarsky – Radio Liberty cameraman, video editor (resigned himself)

Marina Petrushko – Radio Liberty’s specialist on Internet and social media promotion

Alexey Kuznetsov – editor of Radio Liberty’s website and online content, sports expert

Yury Vasiliev – editor of Radio Liberty’s website

Michael Shevelev – editor of Radio Liberty’s website

Tatiana Skorobogatko – editor of Radio Liberty’s website

Alexey Morgun – editor of Radio Liberty’s website

Nairi Ovsepian – editor of Radio Liberty’s website

Yury Timofeev – Radio Liberty photographer

Daria Zharova – Radio Liberty news service

Eugenia Melnikova – Radio Liberty news service

Maria Stroykova – Radio Liberty news service

Ekaterina Evseeva – Radio Liberty news service

Yulia Ivanchenkova – Radio Liberty news coordinator

Ekaterina Skariatina – Radio Liberty news coordinator

Elena Kolupaeva – Radio Liberty sound chief editor

Ekaterina Visotskaya – Radio Liberty sound editor

Dmitry Nalitov – Radio Liberty sound editor

Valery Proydakov – Radio Liberty sound editor

Alexander Orlov-Sokolsky – Radio Liberty sound editor

Ilia Tochkin – Radio Liberty technical director (postponed to 31 Dec)

Bella Kaloeva – Radio Liberty administration (postponed to 10 Nov)

8 Comments

  1. Quo Vadis says:

    How much longer will the U.S. Congress tolerate the blunders and bloopers from the bumblers of the BBG, who are blinded by the brainless bureaucrats on its Executive Staff? Competent capable people are cast to the wolves while the cacophony created by its resident cabal continues.

    U.S. international broadcasting has been reduced to a gruesome groan, a weird whisper, a ludicrous shadow of its once-glorious self.

    If anything, this calls for a full investigation by both the Senate and House Oversight Committees.

    And if need be, close the place down and start all over again.

  2. Ted Lipien says:

    I stand in solidarity with Radio Liberty (Radio Svoboda) Moscow bureau journalists and other employees who were cruelly dismissed without a moment’s notice by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) management after years of courageous reporting on human rights violations, corruption and attacks on media freedom in Russia. Many Americans like myself are simply appalled by how they were treated and the damage done to Radio Liberty’s reputation and America’s image in Russia. Famous Russian human rights leaders, opposition politicians and Mikhail Gorbachev have expressed their shock and disappointment. Letters of protest were sent to the U.S. Congress and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    I hope the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which has full oversight and control over Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, will do the right thing and reverse the disastrous decisions of RFE/RL management. Anything else would be a grave injustice to these talented employees.

    They include some of the most famous Russian journalists as well as Internet and social media experts who made Radio Svoboda’s website one of the best in Russia. Members of the BBG have an obligation to protect these loyal employees and prevent further damage to Radio Liberty. They should also be concerned about the damage done by this mass firing of pro-human rights journalists to U.S. public diplomacy in Russia.

  3. Vello Ederma says:

    The firing is an outrage that we have almost come to expect from a BBG that itself should be abolished.

    Vello Ederma, retired former Deputy Chief of the European Division, VOA
    Former European News Editor and Shift Chief, VOA News Division

  4. Alexander Andreyewsky says:

    Wholly agree with Ted Liepen and Vello Ederma in expressing my solidarity with the fired Radio Liberty journalists and sympathize with the call to abolish BBG itself given its current and past performance. It is time to act responsibly in protecting the interests of the United States and nurturing public diplomacy, not the incompetence of functionaries entrusted to do the job..

    Alexander Andreyewsky. retired VOA Russian Service staffer

  5. Anonymous says:

    It is unfortunate that clueless decisions like this one undermine image of the United States in Russia and strengthen anti-Americanism. Those who fired Radio Liberty employees in Moscow deserve a special Kremlin award for their contribution to successful anti-democratic efforts in Russia.

  6. Edite Lynch says:

    Given the state of the union in Russia with Putin as its President and his brutal decision to
    rid Moscow and the rest of the country of either NGO’s who work as volunteers to help move along the issues of human rights and freedoms, it is not exactly surprising that RFL/RL Russian journalists and tech support people have abruptly, without cause or any deliberate acts of sabotage or untoward activity, been suddenly and without warning or explanation been relieved from their posts of broadcasting. They have been fired without just cause.They would under normal circumstances be guaranteed the opportunity to sue for wrongful dismissal but given the fact that decency, basic morality is totally missing in Russian, perhaps that avenue is not open to them but certainly would be worth doing as a class action suit. Being people of good will in the West, we stand in solidarity with these journalists and broadcastors whose job description is simply to provide information for radio audiences about the freedoms in the West, acquaint them with the rule of law, their basic human rights as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the United Nations Charter and give the listeners hope for the future and an unbiased look at the world which state controlled TV and radio and Pravda deliberately blocks from its populace. Russia has entered a new stage of repressions against dissenters by suddenly without warning storming through their apartments, taking what they wish including family albums, laptops, then arresting them without cause, jailing them for exercising their right of free speech and dissenting against lies, deceit, corruption in the economy and in the Kremlin. Many are being used as an example to the rest of the population to forego dissent of any kind. It is hoped that the Executives of the BBG ( like Dana Perrino) who is still on staff until year end could exercise her visibility to widespread audiences on FOX NEWS to raise this vital issue because the actions of those who fired all these very capable journalists and tech support people by RFE/RL is unconscionable, and severely interrupts continued broadcasting to the Russian people who would otherwise have an option to listen to unfiltered news from the USA and around the world.We are either a nation of decent human beings who care for our fellow men/ women who help serve American interests or the decision has been already been made in collaboration with Russian government officials. Is this also part of BHO’s expectation of “flexibility”?

  7. Marek Walicki says:

    I express my full solidarity with the abandoned Radio Liberty journalists but I am not shocked by what I hear … The latest decision of RFE/RL management reminds me very vividly of a similar ruthless decision it took some 40 years ago, eliminating the national desks of Radio Free Europe in New York. I – with many other dedicated journalists from the Central East European countries – lost full-time jobs after many years of a loyal service. Now as before, the RFE/RL management did employ the same methods undermining its broadcasts to the target area countries… Moreover, now as before, these senseless bureaucratic decisions “made in USA” seem to appease or encourage those who – despite many declarations to the contrary – never stopped repression against political dissenters and courageous journalists who objectively report on human rights violations and corruption all over the world. And as long as these violations continue, nobody should treat or call these free American broadcasters as “a relic of the Cold War”…

    The clueless decisions of RFE/RL management clearly undermine the image of the United States as a champion of democracy and basic human rights.

    Marek Walicki,
    former senior editor of Radio Free Europe and Voice of America

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