Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Flexibility" Now: Radio Free Europe Ends Broadcasts to Russia

Remember Barack Obama being captured on tape last spring assuring outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he (Obama) will have "more flexibility" to deal with contentious issues like missile defense after the U.S. presidential election?

Well, it appears that the Obama administration has shown some "flexibility" to their Communist friends even before that.

Here, from the Washington Free Beacon, is the story on Radio Free Europe's sudden end to broadcasts to Russia.

America’s broadcast voice in Russia will soon be silenced following Moscow’s ratification of a new law that will force a legendary broadcasting company to abandon the Russian airwaves.

Radio Liberty (RL), a division of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE), recently fired a large portion of its staff after the passage of a Russian law prohibiting foreign-owned media outlets from broadcasting on AM frequencies.

The unexpected mass layoffs came as a shock to RL journalists and Russian human rights activists alike, and spurred accusations that the Obama administration is kowtowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin as he seeks to silence the democratic voice that helped topple communism.

“The timing of it, the way it was done, and the lack of explanation” sends an unfortunate message, said David Kramer, president of the human rights organization Freedom House. “It creates the impression, whether intended or not, that the U.S. is pulling out [of Russia], and that’s not the impression we want to leave.”

On Nov. 10, RL, known by locals as Radio Svoboda, will cease its AM broadcasts after nearly 60 years on the airwaves...

Soon after the radio measure was approved, RL axed the majority of its veteran reporters, radio hosts, and editors—a move viewed as suspicious to many on the inside. A handful of additional RL staffers quit in protest following the firings.

Experts fear that the disappearance of RL’s independent voice from the airwaves will allow Putin’s regime to further tighten its grip on the flow of information in Russia.

“I think they have already destroyed the radio so much loved and followed by those Russian listeners who stand for freedom and democracy,” Mario Corti, a former director of Radio Liberty’s Russian Service, told the Free Beacon. “They are lying to the media by playing down the scale of the firings.”...

The BBG and RFE’s leadership are acting in a shortsighted manner, others maintain. A pro-democracy presence is needed more than ever in an increasingly authoritarian Russia, these experts say.

“They’re making budget cuts and they don’t know much about the region,” said one former RFE executive who requested anonymity. “They’re just political appointees.”

RL’s overseers in D.C. “are not Russia specialists or journalists,” griped another source familiar with the station’s operations. “It’s really a blow against the American radio presence and American media presence at a time when Putin is already doing all he can to undermine Western influence.”

A “perfect storm” is brewing in Russia as Putin’s regime cracks down on Western freedoms, the RFE source warned.

“This is capitulating to Putin, and Putin is very sophisticated and knows how to work the Americans,” the former executive said. “The reaction [by the Obama administration] has been too limp.”

“It doesn’t surprise me in the least that there’s been little pushback from the administration because they don’t want to piss off the Russians,” the source said, pointing to President Barack Obama’s policy of a “reset” with Russia...