Russian Service is not the only victim of management actions at RFE/RL

BBG Watch Commentary

RFE/RL LogoA commentary sent to BBG Watch by a journalist whose articles have been published on the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) English-language website points out that the outgoing RFE/RL president Steven Korn and his top deputy Julia Ragona fired experienced journalists and destroyed the effectiveness of not only Radio Liberty’s Russian Service but also the services providing news and analysis to Central Asia.

The author comments on the appeal sent to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the new designated president of RFE/RL Kevin Klose by journalists who were fired or resigned in protest from Radio Liberty’s Russian Service. Their letter, in which they ask for their reinstatement, was also signed by a large number of currently employed Russian Service journalists in Prague and in Moscow who are now reluctantly working for Masha Gessen, Korn’s controversial and highly unpopular pick to run the Russian Service.

The mass firings of journalists and Gessen’s programming ideas are being opposed by nearly all major Russian human rights and democratic political opposition leaders, including Lyudmila Alexeeva and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Former and currently employed Russian Service journalists said that they “are not the grotesque caricature painted by Mr. Korn, Ms. Gessen, and Ms. Ragona” and pointed out that they have been pioneers of digital media. They also protested against “‘soft journalism’ acceptable to the government” forced upon those still working by the current RFE/RL management.

The commentator argues that any appeal or protest to the BBG and Kevin Klose should also include journalists who were fired from the Ukrainian, Turkmen and Kazakh services as well as Central News journalists.

“Strangely, few seem to notice or prefer not to notice that what happened in Moscow was just the last straw in a process that had already claimed a number of casualties in other Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) language services and departments. Prior to the Moscow firings, several journalists were terminated in the Ukrainian and the Turkmen services, 4 in the Kazakh Service and 3 or 4 in the Central News (English language).

It is commendable that the terminated Moscow journalists were able to launch a successful PR campaign on their behalf, but to omit or forget about their colleagues who were terminated prior to them during the Steven Korn reign is, to put it mildly, puzzling. It would be fair to include ALL journalists from RFE/RL who were affected by the Korn-Ragona management team’s ill-conceived policies in any group appeals, letters, etc. They will surely be glad to join.”

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