American scholars speak out against firing of Radio Liberty journalists


Kirill Filimonov protesting at U.S. Embassy Moscow

Former Radio Liberty jourmnalism intern Kirill Filimonov protesting at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow

David Satter, a former Moscow correspondent, has criticized the mass firings and changes at Radio Liberty in a Russian media interview. Satter, a long time observer of Russia and the former Soviet Union, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a fellow of the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
A former Reagan administration official Bruce Chapman wrote that “a Russian government crackdown on outside democratic influences and the announcement of layoffs at the American-financed Radio Liberty in Moscow bracket the crumbling of American public diplomacy.” Chapman, chairman of the Discovery Institute, a think tank based in Seattle, is a former director of the United States Census Bureau and also served as deputy assistant to President Ronald Reagan and as director of the White House Office of Planning and Evaluation. He was also U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Organizations in Vienna, Austria.
Renowned Russian American sociologist Prof. Vladimir Shlapentokh (Michigan State) has also condemned the mass firing of Radio Liberty journalists and the cancellation of their programs dealing with social issues and human rights.
Radio Liberty During Happier Times
Most of the Radio Liberty journalists seen in this video celebrating 20 years of the existence of the RFE/RL Moscow bureau have been fired or resigned in protest. The video was shot by another well known award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist Mumin Shakirov, who was also fired. In an online article, The End of ‘Liberty’ he described the the methods used to fire Radio Liberty journalists.
All BBG members should look at Mr. Korn and at these Radio Liberty journalists in this video and ask themselves do they really believe that these men and women are stuck in the 1980s, are resistant to change, unfamiliar with video and digital media, or was Mr. Korn taking them for a ride with these claims so that he could fire them, hire Masha Gessen and allow her to put her friends on the RFE/RL payroll? BBG members should also ask themselves whether these men and women deserved to be herded by guards, sent at a law firm to be fired and prevented from saying good bye to their audience? They should also ask themselves who has more credibility with Mr. Gorbachev and Ms. Alexeeva, is it Mr. Korn or Mikhail Sokholov and Kristina Gorelik who have interviewed them and known them for a long time? Whom are Mr. Korn and Ms. Ragona hoping to persuade in Moscow? Whom are they kidding?

Ted Lipien told BBG Watch that looking at these talented journalists, talking with them and reading about what they have achieved and what they are doing to defend their reputation and to save their beloved Radio Liberty using their considerable skills, new media tools and important connections within the democratic movement in Russia, one has some hope that common sense might prevail among BBG members.
Lipien added, however, that the BBG, and particularly its executive staff, as well as the current management at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have shown tremendous resistance to change and taking in good advice in the past, and it is not at all clear whether they will listen to people like Gorbachev and Alexeeva. It remains to be seen, Lipien said. What is most amazing, he added, is that Democratic members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors don’t seem to be appalled by the humiliating and brutal way in which distinguished and highly successful Radio Liberty journalists and new media professionals were treated by RFE/RL executives and that almost the entire board seems to ignore warnings on how public institutions should and should not be managed coming from Ambassador Ashe, who was a popular Republican mayor of Knoxville, TN before serving as U.S. Ambassador to Poland.
Radio Liberty-in-Exile, an advocacy group formed by the fired journalists, has posted an online petition which was signed by more than 2500 people, mostly in Russia.