“Blatant aggression” is the term used by the CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to describe what happened to Chairman Jeff Shell this week in Moscow.
In an incident with echoes of the Cold War, Shell was denied entry to the country, held at the airport for several hours and then accompanied by security officials to board an outbound flight. Shell is also a film executive with NBCUniversal.
BBG CEO John Lansing said Russia’s foreign ministry “announced, falsely, that Chairman Shell was a key organizer of ‘anti-Russian propaganda’ and was being sanctioned in retaliation to the United States’ visa sanctions against Russian citizens.” He said the ministry threatened anyone who sanctions Russia to expect “unavoidable retaliation.”
“This blatant aggression is unfortunately not reserved for foreign officials and businessmen. Every day, the Russian government silences critics and tightly controls the flow of information in and around the country. Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty provide unbiased and uncensored news and information to audiences living in Russia and the Russian periphery. But they do so at great risk.”
The Russian foreign ministry was quoted earlier saying that Shell had been put on a “stop list” in response to introduction by the United States of visa sanctions against Russian citizens, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
But Lansing said journalists at VOA and RFE/RL have been the subject of “smear campaigns orchestrated by Kremlin-supported media,” and that reporters and contributors have been threatened and had their homes searched. He noted that while Russia Today and Sputnik “enjoy access to the airwaves in the United States,” U.S. international broadcasters are denied licenses in Russia.
The BBG, Lansing said, “will continue to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. … While the incident with our board chair was unfortunate, it reminds us why the work we do is so important and why we will not be deterred.”
Shell was quoted in the Los Angeles Times about the incident: “The worst part was getting walked down to the plane by the guard. … That was so embarrassing as I had to fly for three hours with all of these people who thought I might have been a terrorist or something.”