Sources told BBG Watch that at a panel discussion on Russia held Thursday in Washington by the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) Strategy and Budget Committee, Freedom House President David Kramer sharply criticized Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President and CEO Steven Korn for his actions at Radio Liberty in Russia. According to sources, Kramer said that Korn had done to Radio Liberty what Putin never could have done. He also told Korn, according to sources, that his comments about the dismissed Radio Liberty journalists were insulting. Russian human rights leaders, including chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeeva, also said that neither Putin nor the former KGB were able to damage Radio Liberty more than Steven Korn.
Kramer’s comments are likely to carry a lot of weight with members of the bipartisan BBG board because of Freedom House’s status as a prominent American human rights organization with a global reach and Kramer’s experience in foreign affairs.
Founded in 1941, Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization, is notable for its bipartisan character. Its members include prominent and influential Americans: scholars, journalists, business and labor leaders, and former government officials. It was the first American organization to champion the advancement of freedom globally. In 1973, Freedom House launched what is now its flagship publication, Freedom in the World, an annual survey of global political rights and civil liberties. During the Cold War, the organizations was involved in the defense of Andrei Sakharov and other Soviet dissidents.
Prior to joining Freedom House, David J. Kramer was a Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and a professor at The George Washington University. He also served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor from March 2008 to January 2009. He also was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, responsible for Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus affairs as well as regional non-proliferation issues. Previously, he served as a Professional Staff Member in the Secretary of State’s Office of Policy Planning. Before that he served as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs. He also was Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy in Washington.
Sources told us that the BBG panel was overall “brutal” on the new programming strategy for Russia pursued by Korn and his top assistants, including vice president for content Julia Ragona and the new Radio Liberty Russian Service director Masha Gessen. The firing of dozens of experienced journalists in Septemeber and changes to the Radio Liberty Russian website instituted by Masha Gessen, which de-emphasize news and promote feature stories, have resulted in more then 50 percent drop in the number of site visitors in just two months.
Official BBG Press Release
The Broadcasting Board of Governors Strategy and Budget Committee hosted two panel discussions on broadcasting strategies for Russia and Iran with internal and external experts at its Dec. 13 meeting at agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. Governors Michael Meehan, Victor Ashe and Dennis Mulhaupt participated in the wide-ranging discussion moderated by International Broadcasting Bureau Deputy Director Jeffrey Trimble. Topics included the evolving broadcasting environments, Internet freedom, and analysis of audience research for each country. Governor Meehan, the committee’s chairman, was to provide a summary of the meeting to the full Board.
External expert panelists on Russia strategy included: Julia Berezovskaya, CEO and editor at Grani.Ru, a Moscow-based independent online newspaper; Dr. Mark Galeotti, Academic Chair of New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, and Clinical Professor of Global Affairs; Vladimir V. Kara-Murza, Senior Policy Advisor, Institute of Modern Russia; David J. Kramer, President, Freedom House; Leonard P. Lidov, President, Morningside Analytics; Mikhail Zygar, Editor-In-Chief, Dozhd TV.
External expert panelists on Iran strategy included: Mahmood Enayat, Founder and Executive Director, Small Media Consultancy; Alan Eyre, Director of the Iran Reporting Office at the U.S. Consulate in Dubai, U.A.E. under the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau; Leonard P. Lidov, President, Morningside Analytics; Briar Smith, Director, Iran Media Program, University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication; S. Enders Wimbush, independent consultant, author, and former BBG board member; Mehdi Yahyanejad, Founder, Balatarin.com, the most popular social news website in Persian.