American Elephants

So It’s Now Time to Dump Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Eastern Europe and Iraq. by The Elephant's Child

As long as we’re talking about the free flow of information, as Vladimir Putin extends his grasp over former satellites of the Soviet Union, the Obama administration is cutting back the U.S. broadcasting outreach in eastern Europe and Iraq. It’s time for the reset button, and the pivot to Asia.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors FY 2015 budget request favors expansion in Africa as “an emerging top priority for U.S. foreign policy,” and concentration on the Asia re-balance” with video and digital initiatives targeting next-generation audiences” particularly in Burma, Cambodia, China and Vietnam. That’s to be sure to reach everybody’s iPod? I thought one of the great problems in Africa was that so many people didn’t have any electricity.

This agency has a strategic imperative to tie its priorities to global realities, making the most of relatively scarce resources while responding to shifts in audiences, technology use and media markets,” BBG Chairman Jeffrey Shell said in a March 4 statement. “As we wrestle with difficult budget trade-offs, excellence in journalism remains our most important objective. Hundreds of millions of people around the world count on our journalists for accurate news and information.”

Their $721 million budget request is a $12 million decrease from what was enacted in FY 2014, axes key diplomatic programs. Of course they didn’t anticipate Russia’s acting up, but neither did the administration.

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill) wrote the Board the day after the budget release and the board’s vote:

Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL) were established during the Cold War as a way to broadcast unbiased news to Eastern Europe to combat Communist propaganda coming from the then-Soviet Union.  Eventually, it was revealed to be a CIA-front organization in the 1960s, and the funding responsibility shifted to Congress, where it has remained. Since then, RFE/RL’s coverage has expanded to many other countries and languages as a source of free speech and Western thought.

“The ongoing situation in Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula has reinforced the importance of these services in recent weeks, and has underscored the original pretext upon which these broadcast services were established. Furthermore, there is the concern that these broadcasts, originally developed with great purpose, investment, and thought will not be easily reestablished once closed down,” Schock wrote. “These broadcast services promote the values of freedom of speech and democracy: values that must remain in the forefront of Iraqi thought, especially as our troops withdraw and that are needed in the Balkans more than ever, as expansionist policies threaten to unmake all the progress that has been made over the past two decades.

If the values of democracy, free speech, and liberty lose their foothold in these regions, it will become an increasingly hostile world for the United States, and a far more difficult world for the people of Iraq and the Balkans. It is for these reasons that I urge the Broadcasting Board of Governors to overturn their decision to shut down the RFE/RL Balkans’ Service, and Radio Free Iraq. I believe that it is imperative that these services be restored, and I respectfully request that the Board of Governors reconsider their initial course of action.

Here is the website for Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty.  The Hoover Institution at Stanford University houses the broadcast archives and corporate records of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty — 10.5 million pages of documents and over 100,000 sound recordings. The collection is being made available in stages, but it’s pretty interesting to poke around in what is available. It was an important effort in keeping hope alive behind the Iron Curtain. The Left has never had much interest, and I don’t think this is the first effort to shut parts of it down.

Most of this piece is shamelessly stolen from Bridget Johnson at pjmedia, who did all the hard work. I am a great believer in Radio Free Europe and fascinated by their story.



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