For some time I’ve wanted to write about Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) for this website. I worked at RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters for nearly a decade, from 1997 to 2006. I started out as a writer in the English-language newsroom and then, in 1999, I was promoted to be the newsroom’s deputy managing editor. I learned a lot on the job and worked with fantastic co-workers from around the former Soviet Union and Eastern bloc. Until now, though, I couldn’t find the right angle to get into the topic. Russia solved that problem for me with its war in Ukraine. The Kremlin’s relentless propaganda campaign about the conflict serves as a timely reminder of the importance of uncensored and objective news reporting in the region. The kind that RFE/RL did (and still does) very well.
In this second entry of a two-part post on RFE/RL, I’ll share stories out of Putin’s Russia from my own time at the radio. My promotion at RFE/RL coincided almost to the day with Putin’s rise to the Russian presidency, and for the next few years our newsroom was transfixed by a string of strange, tragic stories that emerged from Russia during this period. As horrific as these events were, they were often made worse by the Putin regime’s predictable incompetence and low regard for human life. In Part 1 (click for the link), I wrote about the history of RFE/RL and tried to dispel any lingering notions that the radio is somehow an organ of American propaganda.