Dismissed Radio Liberty Moscow Journalists Ask CUSIB to Present Their Appeal to U.S. Administration

The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB) Supporting journalism for media freedom and human rights
The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org) has been asked by a committee of former Radio Liberty Moscow journalists and other staffers who were dismissed last month in a secretly-planned two-day action by the management of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) to forward their open letter to President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine, and members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors who manage Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The sudden dismissal of these pro-democracy and human rights journalists and the cancelation of their radio programs and online reports brought condemnation from a group of prominent Russian human rights leaders, led by Lyudmila Alexeeva, and from former President Mikhail Gorbachev. RFE/RL executives banned these longtime journalists and broadcasters from the studios and prevented them even from saying good bye to their radio listeners and website visitors who relied on these brave professionals to bring them uncensored news and opinions in Putin’s Russia. The Russian media and opposition leaders have described these actions as a further proof of the United States turning its back on the pro-democracy movement in Russia and dismissed explanations of the mass firings from the RFE/RL management as misleading and a mockery.

Elena Vlasenko (center) with Kristina Gorelik and Dimitry Florin

The letter to the U.S. Administration was drafted by a young former Radio Liberty journalist Elena Vlasenko who was not fired by the RFE/RL management but chose to resign in protest to show solidarity with her colleagues. They have also signed her letter. Ms. Vlasenko published an account of the mass firings at Radio Liberty for the Index on Censorship blog UNCUT: Iconic Radio Free Europe Moscow bureau shot by both sides.
The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting has issued its own appeal for an immediate return to work of the dismissed Radio Liberty journalists but has not yet received any response from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to whom RFE/RL management reports.
Some of Radio Liberty Moscow journalists on the day of their dismissal.

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Vice President Joe Biden
Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20501
The Honorable
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
The Honorable
Tara Sonenshine
Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Washington, D.C. 20520
Members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)
330 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20237


Open Letter form Former Journalists of Radio Liberty Moscow Dismissed by Management of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)

Dear Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Madam Secretary Clinton, Madam Secretary Sonenshine, Members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors:
I was working  RFE/RL for three years — writing, shooting documentaries and hosting live broadcasts for its Russian website www.svobodanews.ru and making audio reports for the radio.
Throughout the three years of its existence RFE/RL Russian Service Internet team, which was fired two weeks ago, increased the number of http://www.svobodanews.ru/ visitors eight times, and the number of constant visitors – 20 times.
We were the first of non-TV media to broadcast live protest actions and controversial trials (Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev, Pussy Riot) and to shoot documentaries (Krymsk flood victims, Astrakhan elections crisis, civil society leaders, etc).
RFE/RL Russian Service was the second most frequently quoted radio station after – “Ekho Moskvy,” which has an FM frequency.
After numerous talks with RFE/RL Russian Service veteran – technical director Ilya Tochkin, who is also fired but who was allowed to work till the end of the year – some of my colleagues and I couldn’t help concluding that new RFE/RL management (Mr. Steve Korn and  Ms. Julia Ragona) didn’t even set the goal of keeping radio broadcasting in Moscow and/or finding partners who could retransmit RFE/RL on AM or FM frequencies. This approach, in his view, reduces RFE/RL Russian Service audience, which consists of two big parts: the one which prefers www.svobodanews.ru website (average number of daily visitors – 100 thousand) and the one that listens to the radio (70-100 thousand daily listeners  in Moscow alone).
But RFE/RL’s Russian audience didn’t have to wait until the end of medium wave (AM) broadcasting in Moscow, scheduled to occur on November 10. The audience has already turned its back on RFE/RL after the mass firings of well reputed professionals who spent years developing and maintaining Radio Liberty’s brand and increasing its audience. Two of the dismissed employees are disabled (post stroke, cancer); two of them are single mothers with several children to support.
Mr. Korn and Ms. Ragona are saying that the dismissals were based “on the agreement of both parties.” This may be legally or technically true, but it  is  nevertheless simply at variance with facts and reality.
The truth is that RFE/RL management representatives forced the staff to sign dismissal agreements. What could these journalists do faced with blocked computers, canceled electronic passes, and prevented from accessing RFE/RL’s website publishing system? If an employee refused to take the offer to be fired, he or she would be dismissed anyway.
Such methods and style of management – bragging about a new multimedia concept and firing people who succeeded in its implementation and increased RFE/RL Russian Service web audience tenfold; dismissing all journalists, who throughout the last twenty years have become a part of RFE/RL’s brand –  all this looks like the worst kind of mismanagement and a gross violation of moral and ethical values.
That is why I resigned in protest.
The Radio Liberty editorial office, which consisted of people who spent years risking their health and lives (RFE/RL didn’t provide its staff in Moscow and in other Russian cities with medical insurance) advocating for human rights and freedom of expression, was ruined not by our antagonists but by our own top management – at the expense of American taxpayers, whose money was used not for promoting democracy but for hiring  guards to keep those doing the promoting from going on the air and posting human rights stories on the web.
Tens of professionals with irreproachable reputation, the second most popular Russian multimedia platform and the respected brand developed throughout years of hard work –  became victims of such incredible bad judgement that it brought condemnation from some of the most famous Russian human rights activists and former President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev.
We respectfully urge you to find out what happened to this venerable American public institution in Russia and to restore what was lost before it is too late. I speak here on behalf of myself and my colleagues.
Elena Vlasenko, Moscow, Russian Federation
Email: windprose@gmail.com
℅ The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org)
12726 Greenwood Dr.
Truckee, CA 96161
This letter was also signed by former RFE/RL staffers who share the author’s opinion:
Ludmila Telen – the chief editor of the Radio Liberty website and social media
Mikhail Shevelev – editor of Radio Liberty’s website
Mikhail Sokolov – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty political show,
President Yeltsin personally handed him the license for Radio Liberty broadcasting
in Russia in recognition of his role in live reporting during the communist coup in 1991
Dmitry Florin
Nikita Tatarsky – Radio Liberty cameraman, video editor (resigned himself)
Yuri Vasilyev – editor of Radio Liberty’s website
Tatyana Skorobogatko – editor of Radio Liberty’s website
Alexey Morgun – editor of Radio Liberty’s website
Danila Galperovich – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty program Face to Face
Veronika Bode – on air personality, the host of the Radio Liberty Public Opinion Program
Dmitry Nalitov – Radio Liberty sound editor
Andrey Trukhan – editor of the evening Radio Liberty political show
Yuri Timofeev – Radio Liberty web photographer
Lyubov Chizhova – Radio Liberty special correspondent
Alexey Kuznetsov – editor of Radio Liberty’s website and online content, sports expert
Artur Asafyev
Lyaylya Giniatulina
Kristina Gorelik – experienced human rights reporter, the host of the Radio Liberty
show Third Sector
Ivan Trefilov – one of the best observer of economics news in Moscow
(resigned himself)
Marina Petrushko – Radio Liberty’s specialist on Internet and social media promotion
Alexander Orlov-Sokolsky
Olga Orlova
Venera Abarbanel
Marina Staune
Alya Sanches-Lir
Vitaly Kamyshev – Radio Liberty special correspondent
Mumin Shakirov – Radio Liberty special correspondent
Daria Zharova – Radio Liberty news service
Elena  Kolupaeva – Radio Liberty sound chief editor
Elena Fanailova – poet, on air personality, the host of the show Liberty in
Clubs (resigned herself)
Marina Timasheva – one of the best expert on Russian culture, the
editor and presenter of cultural programs on Radio Liberty
Vladimir Abarbanel – the coordinator of the Radio Liberty correspondent network in Russia, editor and presenter of the Radio Liberty program about Russian regions – Correspondent Hour
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The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB) Supporting journalism for media freedom and human rights
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