"Die Hard" – Radio Liberty at 60

Elena RykovtsevaNovaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper set up by former President Mikhail Gorbachev with the money from his 1990 Nobel Peace Prize, published an article by fired Radio Liberty talk show host and media observer Elena Rykovtseva, in which she discusses the station’s struggle for saving its human rights mission in Russia as Radio Liberty, which was first called Radio Liberation, celebrates its 60 years of broadcasting.

The original article can be seen here: «Крепкий орешек»-60

“Die Hard” – 60

by Elena Rykovtseva, Novaya Gazeta

On March 1, 1953, Radio Liberation was born (later – Radio Liberty)

February 28, 2013

I associate Radio Liberty with the hero of a Hollywood blockbuster, who by the laws of real life should have died long time ago, but by the laws of its genre, he not only lives lives, but also wins.

As it turns out Radio Liberty is also subject to the same cinematic laws, though unlike the invented movie hero, it is still a real organization, which, as it would appear, could not survive a scriptwriter’s dismissing wave of hand.

Just take a look at it, everything is set against it. Radio Liberty was never allowed on an FM frequency. Radio Liberty, which is financed by the U.S. Congress, had long since lost nearly all of its regional partners who refused to cooperate under pressure from the local authorities. Finally, a Russian law has deprived Radio Liberty of its AM medium wave, on which the radio was listened to in Moscow and its suburbs.

But even these attacks could not finish it off. After all, its broadcasts remained on shortwave. Besides, the radio had its website, where, judging by the numbers of downloads, Radio Liberty was actively listened to. The audience was also quite actively studying other materials on its website.

It seemed that even Kremlin could not remove these last two opportunities to communicate with the audience. But something unbelievable happened. Radio Liberty itself was removed. And it was done not by strangers, it was done by its own people.

Last September, the President of Radio Liberty, K., and Vice-President, R., selected Director, G., to lead the Russian Service.

In this process, they dismissed a large group of journalists. As luck would have it, they were the most popular on the radio and on the website. A few of their colleagues left together with them as a sign of protest.

Director G. brought her “own people” to replace the journalists. The website collapsed – from 50th place to 150th. Radio programs were filled with continuous repeats. A group of older employees, which was still at the station, of course, could not alone prop it up.

It would seem that obituaries for Radio Liberty were about to be written. Actually, it almost happened. Viktor Shenderovich, for example, is already talking about it using the saying “God rest its soul.”

But Hollywood is Hollywood! The apparent end of Radio Liberty has once again become its beginning. No wonder that the station at the time of his birth was called “Liberation”!

Thus, the group of exiles, which has no legal chances of winning, nevertheless begins the fight – the fight for the release of Radio Liberty from those whom they consider its destructors. In this struggle, the group is consistently supported by those Russian politicians and human rights activists, who, fortunately for those dismissed, are listened to in the United States. Lyudmila Alekseeva, Sergei Kovalev, Valery Borshchev, Mikhail Gorbachev, Grigory Yavlinsky and other famous people write protests and appeals to the BBG – the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, which selects the leadership of Radio Liberty.

President K., Vice President R. and Director G. personally explain themselves to the authors of the protests. But human rights activists say that they will leave the room if representatives of fired journalists are not allowed into the meeting.

The leadership of Radio Liberty cannot clearly explain to them why the purge occurred. Human rights activists continue to attack the BBG with appeals. The group of fired employees launches their Facebook page called “Radio Liberty in Exile.” Former correspondent of Radio Liberty in Murmansk, Andrey Korolev, designs alone free of charge the website called “New Liberty.”

At the same time, in the United States, the exiles from Radio Liberty get help from Ted Lipien, chief publisher of BBG Watch (this site follows the activities of the Broadcasting Board of Governors). Ted publishes in English materials on the Radio Liberty situation that appear in Russia and offers them to the American media.

Contributing to the common cause, former Radio Liberty managers, John O’Sullivan and Mario Corti, also publish articles in the Western press.

Foreign correspondents accredited in Moscow regularly interview the exiled journalists.

But the most important development is that all the details of the conflict have been tracked for several months by the most popular newspapers, online publications and news agencies in the Russian Federation – “MK”, ​​Gazeta, Lenta.ru, Interfax and others. So it turns out that there is still corporate media solidarity.

But no, there is something even more important and touching. It is the support of the audience of Radio Liberty, which was suddenly left without their usual journalists. Members of the audience – in social networks and on the “New Liberty” website – continue to express hope for the journalists’ return.

In late December, President K. resigns. He is replaced by Kevin Klose, who had led this radio in the mid 90’s. The group of dismissed journalists wrote him a letter asking him to restore justice and common sense. This letter – which is priceless – was also signed by 20 employees who now work for Radio Liberty, as well as by 15 of Radio Liberty’s own correspondents abroad.

In late February, the new president of Radio Liberty came to Moscow. He met with politicians and human rights activists, whose position on this remains unchanged: those fired must be brought back. He also met with a group of exiled journalits who volunteered to help Radio Liberty to recover lost ground – of course, without Director G.

After that, Kevin Klose flew to Washington, and the group of former Radio Liberty staffers started to prepare for the celebration of the anniversary of the great radio station which they still consider as theirs. It will be a reunion of Radio Liberty. Journalists and politicians will be there, as well as colleagues who will arrive from Prague. All of this, of course, will not be held in their own old home, so it will be crowded and not well supplied with food (it’s being planned as a pot-luck party). But all this certainly demonstrates that Radio Liberty manages to survive no matter who once again encroached on her life – external forces or internal.

Will this story about the fired journalists have a happy end as usually do all the other unpleasant stories with Radio Liberty? Watch for further announcements. A movie is a movie.

The author was a journalist of Radio Liberty from 2001 to 2012.

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