Research from Putin's pollster in Chechnya used to silence Radio Liberty, former RL journalist reports
A former Radio Liberty investigative reporter Anastasia Kirilenko wrote in her blog that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president Steven Korn used research by the Kremlin’s controversial pollster to justify firing dozens of Radio Liberty journalists and silencing of their human rights programs.
Kirilenko also reported that the pollster used by RFE/RL has been criticized by Russian human rights activists and independent researchers. Kirilenko resigned from Radio Liberty in protest against the firing of her colleagues and against being told by the new management to do more social interest stories, such as conditions in Russian kindergartens, instead of investigative reporting on political corruption. She is now part of the Radio Liberty in Exile group of former Radio Liberty journalists who produced an audio of RFE/RL President Steven Korn’s dismissive comments about Russia’s human rights and anti-Putin opposition leaders.
Last night (November 10, 2012) Radio Liberty stopped broadcasting in Moscow on medium wave (AM). We are told that a new Radio Liberty website will be created to deliver digital broadcasting and other digital content to Internet users. It might sound like a great idea to those who don’t know, but Radio Liberty already had such a website. There is not much left of it because dozens of broadcasters, cameramen, video editors and web editors who did radio, Internet, live video and social media, were fired with help of guards and other coercive measures employed by American officials.
Most staffers who replaced them have no experience in radio or multimedia broadcasting. But apparently, these decisions by RFE/RL executives were based on results of audience research. The problem is that RFE/RL and its parent agency in Washington, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), employ research firms with strong ties to repressive regimes and use their research to justify elimination of programs that these regimes find objectionable.
This problem is not limited to Putin’s Russia. During the debate in the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2011, Congressman Brad Sherman D-CA, Congressman Connie Mack R-FL, and Congressman Chris Smith, R-NJ said that BBG “bureaucrats” should not be allowed to make the decision to cut VOA radio and TV to China based on suspect research. Rep. Mack commented that “People in China or Cuba, as you can imagine, will not jump in joy and admit it [listening to Western radio stations]. If you say yes, in China or Cuba, the government will punish you. People are afraid for their own lives.” Rep. Smith pointed out the BBG gives money to contractors in Beijing to conduct these completely unreliable surveys. The Congress forced the BBG to keep radio and TV broadcasts to China and Tibet.
But this did not stop these and other bureaucrats from trying the same tactics elsewhere. During a recent roundtable discussion in Moscow on Radio Liberty’s future, Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe president Steven Korn was confronted by one of the best Russian sociologists Dr. Lev Gudkov, the head of the Levada Center, a social research institute in Russia highly respected for its independence. Dr. Gudkov told Mr. Korn that RFE/RL’s research was faulty. Mr. Korn ignored these and other comments from prominent Russian human rights and political leaders.
Read more of Anastasia Kirilenko’s article: Research from Putin’s Pollster Used to Silence Radio Liberty