USAGM Watch Media COMMENTARY
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) , which is journalistically independent but is overseen by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) federal bureaucracy in Washington, issued a vaguely-worded denial of a Kyiv Post report of March 31, 2023, which alleged that the “U.S.government-funded Russian-Language TV channel [“Current Time”] is hiring a journalist who supported Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.”
A senior RFE/RL executive told USAGM Watch that the journalist “is not being hired,” but did not say whether or not he was being considered for a job with the broadcaster or offered a contract, as the Kyiv Post reported. RFE/RL’s senior management has been reported being hampered and negatively impacted by the dysfunctional government bureaucracy of the U.S. Agency for Global Media now led by former Voice of America (VOA) director Amanda Bennett.
“Current Time” is produced jointly by RFE/RL in Prague and the Voice of America Russian Service in Washington under the administrative umbrella of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, whose current CEO Amanda Bennett was alleged to have been lax in security and suitability vetting of Voice of America journalists when she was VOA director from 2016 to 2020.
In March 2019, Bennett was informed that dissident journalists in the region were appalled that a former Putin state media employee hired by the Voice of America had produced before being hired by VOA anti-U.S. propaganda videos with conspiracy theories and what some American experts saw as anti-Semitic themes. The journalist was allowed to continue working for the Voice of America for many more months while Bennett was VOA director until his contract eventually expired. RFE/RL management at that time immediately stopped using the journalist’s Voice of America reports in the “Current Time” broadcasts.
The Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi had an exclusive story on February 24, 2023 that “Voice of America placed two journalists in its Russian-language service on leave Friday after colleagues accused them of producing ‘propaganda’ benefiting Russian president Vladimir Putin before they joined the U.S. government-funded broadcaster.”
The story about the VOA journalists was first reported by the Kyiv Post in Ukraine on February 21, 2023. Kyiv Post revealed that “15 employees of Voice of America (VOA) had sent an open letter to the U.S. Congress, questioning the government-financed news agency’s decision to hire two Russian journalists who had earlier worked for pro-Kremlin news outlets.”
RFE/RL management issued a denial of the March 31 Kyiv Post report, but the RFE/RL statement appears vague.
A STATEMENT FROM RFE/RL
The search for a senior-level Current Time digital position is ongoing, and reports to the contrary are false.
Current Time, a 24/7 Russian language digital network, has prioritized covering Russia’s illegal full-scale invasion of Ukraine for Russian-speaking audiences in coordination with our Ukrainian Service. Current Time’s coverage of those events has helped fuel RFE/RL’s significant audience growth inside Russia over the last year. It has been used across the 23 countries RFE/RL operates in to provide factual reporting about Putin’s brutal aggression against Ukraine, helping to counter Kremlin narratives about the war.
Current Time’s management team includes citizens from many countries, including Ukraine, with expertise in reaching theplatform’sprimaryaudienceinRussiaandtheRussian diaspora. Regardless of national origin, all of RFE/RL’s management and staff are committed to providing trusted and accurate news about Ukraine’s fight for freedom and democracy.
Through its Ukrainian Service, Radio Svoboda, RFE/RL reaches millions of Ukrainians weekly. Svoboda has recently expanded programming for Ukrainian audiences by launching a new office in Lviv, a new morning YouTube show, and a project for Ukrainians who have been forcibly displaced by the war.
RFE/RL journalists are risking their lives every day in Ukraine. One, Vira Hyrych, paid the ultimate price for her work in April 2022. The notion that RFE/RL is not serving Ukrainian audiences at this important moment as Ukraine fights for its democracy