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RFE/RL Sends Letter To The Editors Of ‘The Wall Street Journal’

WASHINGTON – RFE/RL has submitted the following letter to the editors of The Wall Street Journal, concerning WSJ’s April 25, 2019 article “U.S. Broadcaster Under Scrutiny for Disseminating Autocratic Propaganda“:

To the editor:

“U.S. Broadcaster Under Scrutiny for Disseminating Propaganda” (April 25, 2019) repeats unverified allegations and makes several errors. Most egregiously, to support its allegations, the article cites “The State Department memo on the Tajikistan Service”– but the document in question is no such thing. It is an unsigned, undated collection of rumors and allegations that, when asked by RFE/RL, State Department officials themselves conceded they could not stand behind.

The article also uncritically accepts the document’s mistaken references to the Service’s “affiliation” with the U.S. government and relationship to “USG regional messaging.” To the contrary, RFE/RL is a nongovernmental organization whose editorial independence is protected by U.S. law.

Regarding a reference to contracts between the Tajik Service and a local radio affiliate, the U.S. Agency For Global Media (USAGM) has looked closely at these allegations and verified that all contracts were awarded through rigorous, competitive processes. There is no direct contact between RFE/RL and its broadcast affiliates. This point was made repeatedly to the Journal, but ignored.

The article repeats other allegations that have been brought to RFE/RL’s attention, and which, when warranted, we have taken decisive measures to address. For example, internal and external content evaluations produced for the company over the past several weeks did find evidence of bias in the Tajik Service’s reporting, but new leadership and renewed oversight have brought demonstrable changes. This week alone, Tajik Service reporting included a Skype interview with Muhiddin Kabiri, the exiled leader of the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, which is banned by the government. The Service also covered a government decree doubling fees for Internet service, and a young man’s wrongful conscription into military service. These reports helped drive some 2.8 million views on the Service’s YouTube channel over the last seven days.

RFE/RL works in some of the world’s most restrictive societies, providing news and information to audiences that need it most. We are proud of our journalists, who work under enormous pressure, and are committed to ensuring the integrity of our journalism. We welcome any credible criticism based on credible sources.

Daisy Sindelar
Acting President and CEO