Fired Radio Liberty journalists appeal to BBG and Kevin Klose for reinstatement
BBG Watch Commentary
Fired Radio Liberty journalists appeal to BBG and Kevin Klose for reinstatement, Russian Service employees in Prague and Moscow express solidarity
“We, the journalists and multimedia professionals forced out from Radio Liberty, claim that we are not the grotesque caricature painted by Mr. Korn, Ms. Gessen, and Ms. Ragona.” From the Letter to the Broadcasting Board of Governors and Mr. Kevin Klose
In a major shift suggesting open solidarity with fired Radio Liberty journalists and defiance against the current Russian Service and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) top managers installed by the outgoing RFE/RL president Steven Korn, a large number of Russian Service staffers in Prague signed a letter asking the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the designated next RFE/RL president Kevin Klose that their fired colleagues and others who had resigned in protest be reinstated and allowed to carry on responsible reforms and digital expansion of programs without jeopardizing the station’s pro-media freedom and pro-human rights mission in Russia. Some currently working Russian Service journalists at the Moscow bureau of Radio Liberty, where the new service director Masha Gessen has her office, have also signed the letter.
The letter and especially the signatures of many Prague-based and Moscow-based Russian Service journalists send a powerful statement to BBG members, many of whom are now supportive of rehabilitating the fired staffers, whose reputation — as the letter points out — was unjustly tarnished by Steven Korn, his top deputies Julia Ragona and Dale Cohen, and Masha Gessen, Korn’s pick to run the Russian Service. Gessen is now a completely isolated figure without any significant support from human rights activists, democratic political leaders, and prominent independent journalists in Russia, nearly all of whom continue to boycott her and “Radio Gessen,” as Radio Liberty is now mockingly called in Russia.
Radio Liberty journalists in Prague and Moscow openly expressing solidarity with their fired colleagues and those who resigned in protest puts Ragona, Cohen, and Gessen in a very difficult position. RFE/RL Corporate Board Chairman Dennis Mulhaupt has ordered them not to make any major personnel decisions until Kevin Klose arrives in Prague.
It is expected that Kevin Klose, a former RFE/RL president and former NPR executive recruited largely at the initiative of BBG member Susan McCue, will move quickly to deal with the crisis once he assumes his new position on January 26. His selection was widely applauded by the fired journalists and nearly all current RFE/RL employees. Klose is also highly respected by supporters of U.S. international broadcasting among U.S. human rights and media freedom organizations. Sources told BBG Watch that some of the key BBG members have asked Kevin Klose to make the rehabilitation of the fired journalists one of his top priorities.
OPEN LETTER TO THE BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS
AND MR. KEVIN KLOSE
The Honorable Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, ex officio member
The Honorable Michael Lynton, Interim Presiding Governor
The Honorable Victor Ashe
The Honorable Susan McCue
The Honorable Michael Meehan
The Honorable Dennis Mulhaupt
The Honorable Tara Sonenshine, State Department’s representative
Mr. Kevin Klose, Designated President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
We, the journalists and multimedia professionals forced out from Radio Liberty, claim that we are not the grotesque caricature painted by Mr. Korn, Ms. Gessen, and Ms. Ragona.
We claim that none of us was a retrograde opponent of digital media. To the contrary, we have been its pioneers and supporters at Radio Liberty. The evidence is served by our prestigious awards in online journalism and the new media reporting.
We claim that Radio Liberty was our mission in life, our love, our best hope for Russia. We hoped that the work we were doing was contributing to democracy, the future of our children, and a peaceful world. We considered it a great honor to carry on the station’s noble mission over the radio waves, the Internet, social media, in the live video and video talk-shows. We feel baffled and sad that we now stand accused of obstructing all the new digital media formats that we have been using daily in the past years and with the sense of genuine professional pride.
We do not deny that reforms and improvements were long and sorely overdue. In fact, we were prepared to render our energies and professionalism to a leader capable of providing a clear vision and direction. We were ready to share a whole range of suggestions and ideas regarding the ways to expand our online audiences.
We needed leadership to reach out through the different media and the novel marketing campaigns without, however, compromising our mission. Yet we were ignored, silenced through intimidation, and finally fired or resigned en masse in protest.
The Radio Liberty under the leadership of Mr. Korn, Ms. Ragona, Mr. Cohen and Ms. Gessen has become morally reprehensible to many Russians. Our radio station became simply irrelevant because its news coverage and the advocacy of human rights – the long cherished soul and professional reputation of RL – were sidelined in favor of the safer entertaining jоurnalism and the ‘soft journalism’ acceptable to the government. President Putin himself could not have hoped for a better outcome.
We want to look to the future and offer our help in rebuilding and saving the important mission of Radio Liberty in Russia. We appeal to BBG and American taxpayers who have so generously supported our station over the years to correct a a blatant mistake and continue the station’s mission in Russia.
We welcome the appointment of Kevin Klose as President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. We are willing to work with him and the RFE/RL management team that truly cares about media freedom and human rights. We trust that you will make the right decision.
This letter has the support of the following Radio Liberty journalists currently employed at RFE/RL:
This letter has the support of the following Radio Liberty freelancers and former employees:
Alexander Genis (New York)
Sophia Kornienko (Amsterdam)
Natalie Golitsin (London)
Georgy Kobaladze (Davit Gamtsemlidze) (Tbilisi)
Allan Davydov (Washington)
Eugeny Aronov (Greg Katsenelinboigen) (New York)
Aja Kuge (Belgrad)
Andrei Korolev (Murmansk)
Sergei Djanian (Copenhagen)
Victor Rezunkov (St.Petersburg)
Natalia Ogadzhanyants (Moscow)
Olga Orlova (Moscow)
Sergey Mulin (Moscow)
Artur Asafiev (Ufa)
Melanie Bachina (Tomsk)
Tatiana Voltskaya (St.Petersburg)
Ekaterina Lushnikova (Kirov)
Vadim Dubnov (Moscow)
Olga Bakutkina (Saratov)
Farid Arifoglu (Baku)
Andrey Gavrilov (Moscow)
Alla Davidian (Moscow)
Albina Lir (Lyon)
Maxim Yaroshevsky (Moscow)
Sergey Gogin (Ulianovsk)