Fired Radio Liberty journalist writes about his Holocaust video project

BBG Watch Commentary

Mumin Shakirov

Mumin Shakirov

In September 2012, the former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) management team fired some of the best journalists in Russia and missed a chance to do a multimedia project on the meaning of the Holocaust for young people in Russia today. One of those fired was Mumin Shakirov, Moscow-based, award-winning video-journalist. He is also a book writer and film director.

Shortly before he was fired from Radio Liberty, Shakirov proposed to do a video project on how many young Russians seem to be ignorant of the World War II Jewish Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis. His proposal was ignored by a top RFE/RL American manager responsible for program content, but Shakirov managed to produce his video with his own money and some help from NGO foundations.

The former RFE/RL management accused dozens of journalists fired from the Radio Liberty Moscow bureau of being incapable of doing video and other forms of digital media. Many of them were well-known journalists and award-winning multimedia reporters, including the entire former Radio Liberty Internet team in Moscow.

Newly-appointed RFE/RL acting president Kevin Klose met recently in Moscow with representatives of the fired journalists and is believed to be working on bringing them back. They were sacked by his predecessor Steven Korn and some of his top managers who had earlier ignored Shakirov’s Holocaust video proposal. Kevin Klose promised to support serious political and civic journalism at Radio Liberty.

In an article for the UK-based online magazine openDemocracyRussia, Mumin Shakirov tells his story how he met two young Russian sisters who did not know the meaning of the word “Holocaust,” invited them for an interview at Radio Liberty, and–after he was fired from Radio Liberty–took them to the site of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Poland, where he filmed their reactions.

Many Russian journalists and readers were content to mock the Karatygin sisters’ ignorance. Mumin Shakirov looked to engage with them, and found two good-natured, if undereducated girls.

Last year, two student sisters appearing on a Russian TV quiz show gained instant notoriety when asked to define the word ‘Holocaust’. A trip to Auschwitz with journalist Mumin Shakirov dispelled their ignorance, but, as he reflects, it was hardly surprising, given the subject is so rarely mentioned in Russia today.

READ MORE: Holocaust – is that wallpaper paste? by Mumin Shakirov, openDemocracyRussia, March 1, 2013.

In an earlier online openDemocracy.net article, The End of ‘Liberty’, Mumin Shakirov, described how senior managers of the U.S. government-funded radio station engineered the firing of dozens of journalists at the Radio Liberty Moscow bureau, causing a major scandal in Russia, especially among opposition leaders and opposition media figures. The incident was being widely commented on in the Russian media as an example of incompetence, political naiveté, and moral failure of American executives who were formerly in charge of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. While RFE/RL now has new acting president Kevin Klose, some of the managers responsible for the mass dismissals are still in their former positions.

READ MORE: The end of ‘Liberty’ by Mumin Shakirov, openDemocracyRussia, September 26, 2012.

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