BBG to initiate review of Radio Liberty Moscow events

BBG interim presiding governor Michael Lynton

BBG Interim Presiding Governor Michael Lynton

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) interim presiding governor Michael Lynton announced Friday at the open BBG meeting in Washington that the board will initiate a six-month review of the recent events at the Radio Liberty bureau in Moscow, where dozens of Russian Service journalists had been fired. Lynton said that the review will be led by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) deputy director Jeff Trimble. He had been previously a top executive at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org) Executive Director Ann Noonan was present during the open BBG meeting in Washington. In her public statement, which the BBG board allowed her to make, Noonan pointed out that RFE/RL management fired Bella Kaloeva and Aleksey Kuznetsov, two fully qualified and fully capable employees with disabilities and replaced them with less qualified and less experienced non-disabled new employees. She also pointed out that the firing of Radio Liberty Russian Service experienced and highly respected journalists and the decision to de-emphasize news and news analysis and to replace it on the Radio Liberty Russian home page with soft feature stories has produced a more than 50 percent decline in site visitors in just two months.

Ann Noonan, Executive Director, CUSIB

Ann Noonan, Executive Director, CUSIB

Ann Noonan also said that the chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeeva, said that neither Putin nor the former KGB were able to damage Radio Liberty more than Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President and CEO Steven Korn. She mentioned that Freedom House has sharply criticized Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President and CEO Steven Korn for his actions at Radio Liberty in Russia and that Freedom House’s President said that Mr. Korn had done to Radio Liberty what Putin never could have done.

Finally, Noonan defended RFE/RL Kazakh journalists who were fired or whose contracts were not renewed and urged protections for freedom of expression for RFE/RL staffers:

“One additional item I’d like to make a matter of record today is about the firing of four Radio Liberty Kazakh Service journalists last June and the production by RFE/RL of offensive, sexually suggestive videos for this largely Muslim nation. Especially disturbing was the non-renewal of the contract for a young Kazakh woman journalist Nazira Darimbet who objected to these videos being posted and questioned RFE/RL President Steven Korn about the firing of Radio Liberty journalists in Moscow.”

Full text of Ann Noonan’s public statement during the meeting:

Statement by Ann Noonan
Executive Director
Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting
December 14, 2012
BBG Meeting, Washington, DC

Thank you for welcoming me to attend this meeting. I am delighted that the public is now able to attend the BBG’s open meetings. Thank you also for permitting me to speak as part of what we hope will be the first of many public comments at open BBG meetings. As you know, public comments are a valuable part of our democracy, and I am hopeful that you will encourage future participation of organizations and individuals to be a part of the process.

As you know, the Committee for US International Broadcasting is a non-partisan, non-governmental organization that supports journalism for media freedom and human rights.

1. The first item I’d like to mention is September’s mass firing of Radio Liberty (Radio Svoboda) journalists, web editors and other staffers. We remain aggrieved that it has taken the BBG so long to remedy this outrage against US public diplomacy and human decency.
2. I’d like to point out that RFE/RL management fired Bella Kaloeva and Aleksey Kuznetsov, two fully qualified and fully capable employees with disabilities and replaced them with less qualified and less experienced non-disabled new employees.
3. I’d also like to point out that the firing of Radio Liberty Russian Service experienced and highly respected journalists and the decision to de-emphasize news and news analysis and to replace it on the Radio Liberty Russian home page with soft feature stories has produced a more than 50 percent decline in site visitors in just two months.
4. The chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeeva, said that neither Putin nor the former KGB were able to damage Radio Liberty more than Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President and CEO Steven Korn. Freedom House has sharply criticized Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President and CEO Steven Korn for his actions at Radio Liberty in Russia. Freedom House’s President said that Mr. Korn had done to Radio Liberty what Putin never could have done.
5. One additional item I’d like to make a matter of record today is about the firing of four Radio Liberty Kazakh Service journalists last June and the production by RFE/RL of offensive, sexually suggestive videos for this largely Muslim nation. Especially disturbing was the non-renewal of the contract for a young Kazakh woman journalist Nazira Darimbet who objected to these videos being posted and questioned RFE/RL President Steven Korn about the firing of Radio Liberty journalists in Moscow.

CUSIB joins the growing number of government officials and human rights leaders in their many appeals to the Broadcasting Board of Governors to restore all of the fired Radio Liberty journalists to their rightful posts. All of these journalists must be returned to their jobs and management and personnel practices at RFE/RL investigated by the BBG to allow freedom of expression and prevent programming mistakes.

Thank you.

At the end of the meeting, Governor Ashe reminded the board and the online audience that Jeff Trimble has been asked to lead a review of the events at the RFE/RL Moscow bureau. Governor Meehan said that the board has been looking into the situation at RFE/RL. Is it unclear, however, what the future of RFE/RL president Steven Korn will be and whether he has received any confidential instructions from BBG members.

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