Mikhail Kasyanov, one of the signatories of the protest letter to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) over the mass firing of Radio Liberty journalists and cancellation of their political and human rights programs, was Prime Minister of Russia, 2000-2004. Kasyanov, the last member of the Russian government closely associated with Yeltsin, was dismissed, along with the entire Russian cabinet, by President Vladimir Putin on 24 February 2004 after more than three years in office. Former Prime Minister Kasyanov was joined in his protest to the BBG by Boris Nemtsov (Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, 1997-1998) and Vladimir Ryzhkov (Vice-Speaker of State Duma, 1995-1998).

To the Broadcasting Board of Governors

Today when the authoritarian regime of Mr Putin has increased the pressure on independent media in Russia and began new attacks on freedom of expression and on democracy movement in Russia, the U.S. management of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has made the decision to stop its medium-wave broadcasting. Moreover in one day about 40 journalists, website editors and technical staff were fired – almost the entire personnel in Moscow.

During this difficult for democracy in Russia period RFE/RL Russian Service served as one of the few remaining independent media sources providing exceptionally fair and objective coverage of Russian political life.

We were shocked by the decision of the officials of RFE/RL. This decision will cause tremendous harm to the political media freedom in Russia and therefore we are expressing our deep concern.

The purge in Moscow bureau has badly damaged the reputation of RFE/RL as a free international media working in traditions of democratic standards.

We recommend the Broadcasting Board of Governors in Washington to revise the RFE/RL management decision and restore medium-wave broadcasting and the Radio Liberty Moscow team.

Political Leaders of Russian Republican Party of People’s Freedom

Mikhail Kasyanov (Prime Minister of Russia in 2000-2004)

Boris Nemtsov (Deputy Prime Minister of Russia in 1997-1998)

Vladimir Ryzhkov (Vice-Speaker of State Duma in 1995-1998)

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Statement of Yabloko Leaders

“Russian United Democratic Party ‘Yabloko’ is deeply concerned over the situation which surrounds RFERL Russian Service. RFERL Moscow bureau leading journalists mass firings threatened the very existence of Radio Svoboda as objective media of high quality.

The official reason for switching to new multimedia technologies and quitting medium wave broadcasting doesn’t withstand criticism.

If this was the actual reason, RFERL’s management wouldn’t have fired the Internet team in the first place. This team made Radio Svoboda website one of the most competent and highly quoted political resources in the Russian segment of the Internet.

To the best of our judgment, a bureaucratic mistake took place, which is turning the other into a political mistake. Bureaucrats supervising mass media were making their narrow decisions, without considering the political consequences, which are indeed political. The Russian audience has lost the information source which it trusted throughout many decades. It is obvious that mass media reputation is the reputation of its journalists.

Russian politicians and human rights activists have lost the channel of delivering their opinion to citizens in the conditions of censorship.

In our perspective, there is still a chance of correcting this situation, preventing the bureaucratic mistake from becoming political.”

Sergei Mitrokhin
Grigory Yavlinsky

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Radio Liberty listeners appeal to President Obama to bring back fired Radio Liberty journalists, restore radio programs

Individual listeners of Radio Liberty continuing their protest at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Wednesday. The main demonstration of Radio Liberty listeners in front of the embassy was on Tuesday.

Kirill Filimonov detained by police at U.S. Embassy in Moscow during the demonstration of Radio Liberty listeners on Tuesday.

“We demand that a compromise with Russian authorities be found so that Radio Svoboda continues medium-wave broadcasting. We demand that the fired journalists be hired back. Probably the journalists, who quit Radio Svoboda to show solidarity with their colleagues, will then come back. Obviously these are the necessary measures to support the rise of the civic society in Russia, which is our only possible response to the approaching totalitarianism.” — from Radio Liberty listeners’ appeal to the United States Government

Petition of Radio Liberty Listeners

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

The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Kerry

Members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)
330 IndependenceAvenue, SW
Washington, DC 20237

October 8

Dear Sirs,

We have been listening to RFE/RL Russian Service (Radio Svoboda) for many years. Now we are very concerned over its destiny. After the majority of the Moscow bureau journalists were fired, the listeners were told that Radio Svoboda would stop medium-wave broadcasting in Russia, a decision stipulated by a new Russian law. This is why we are addressing to you in a hope that something could be done to change the terrible things that happened.

Almost all Moscow bureau journalists, specializing in democracy and human rights issues, were fired in just two days with no clear explanation. They just disappeared, without even having a chance to say good-bye to their listeners. The dismissal was so indecent that those who were not fired decided to quit. We still do not know the names of those who were hired instead of the former workers. We have no proof that Radio Svoboda will continue its independent policy.

As we were told that Radio Svoboda would now broadcast online, and the website would be changed, we do not understand why the young and professional online editorial team had to be fired, too. Besides, a lot of listeners live in small towns and
villages with no access to the Internet. After Radio Svoboda stops medium-wave broadcasting, they will lose the unbiased and objective source of information, being able to watch nothing but state-owned TV channels.

Why did not anyone think about us, the devoted listeners of RFE/RL?

People of the older generation remember how valuable Radio Svoboda’s s programs were for USSR citizens. Much has changed in Russia since then. But the current political vector is different from the one that we had in late 1980’s and early 1990s. The pressure on opposition and civic society in Putin’s Russia increases every day. Repressive laws are passed, biased trials are held, independent media close or become dependent on the Kremlin. In this context Radio Svoboda’s voice is crucially important for us. It seems that promoting democracy, which has always been an important part of U.S. policy toward Russia and U.S. public policy in general, is no longer important for the American administration. Our disappointment is immense.

We demand that a compromise with Russian authorities be found so that Radio Svoboda continues medium-wave broadcasting. We demand that the fired journalists be hired back. Probably the journalists, who quit Radio Svoboda to show solidarity with their colleagues, will then come back. Obviously these are the necessary measures to support the rise of the civic society in Russia, which is our only possible response to the approaching totalitarianism.

Best Regards,

Radio Svoboda listeners.

We collected mote than 1,000 signatures under this petition in just a one day!

As of early morning October 11, the petition has close to 2000 signatures.

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