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Navalny Trial Coverage Applauded In 'Best Of RFE/RL'

Russia -- Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny stands outside the Moscow city court building, September 12, 2013

Russia -- Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny stands outside the Moscow city court building, September 12, 2013

Whether dissecting the outlandish statements of former Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad or exposing the corruption behind a construction project that threatens national heritage in Azerbaijan, RFE/RL’s best stories from July and August took on the powers that be and provided audiences with crucial information.

News & Current Affairs

One of the biggest stories of July was certainly the trial of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny in the city of Kirov, more than 500 miles northwest of Moscow. The state-controlled media coverage of the trial was highly selective and one-sided, giving almost no air-time to the defense. RFE/RL’s Russian Service, Radio Svoboda, provided live coverage from the courthouse in Kirov, as well as the reaction of other opposition leaders outside the courtroom. The service then carried live coverage of protests in Moscow and other Russian cities the following day.

Feature/ Feature-length Coverage

Two stories were selected as RFE/RL’s top Features -- Radio Farda’s ‘Australian Dream’ series produced by Denise Ajiri & Fred Andon Petrossians and the Kyrgyz Service’s report on how the Tablighi Jamaat Islamic movement is sending Kyrgyz teenagers to madrasahs in Bangladesh (in English).

Australian Dream’ examines the impact of Australia’s new immigration policy of refusing to let refugees remain in Australia if they come by sea, sending them instead to the Pacific islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Intended to discourage illegal immigrants from making the dangerous boat journey to Australia, the policy is also making it more difficult for genuine asylum seekers, including those from Iran, to enter and stay in Australia. The series, which consisted of five investigative reports in both audio and web form and featured a rare interview with a refugee, was very well-received by Radio Farda’s audience, who appreciated the depth and interactivity of Farda’s coverage.

The Kyrgyz Service looked at how Tablighi Jamaat, a conservative Sunni Muslim movement banned in Russia and most of Central Asia, is recruiting new members by offering a free Islamic education in Bangladesh to children from poor, rural families. To learn more about the group, the Service interviewed two Kyrgyz boys studying at Kakrail mosque in Dhaka, and spoke with two experts based in Bangladesh. The service also published documents obtained by RFE/RL, which confirm that security officials in Kyrgyzstan are increasingly concerned about the group and its activities. The story sparked a hot debate on the Service’s website and was republished by many local and regional media outlets.


A 15-minute documentary by Baku-based Azerbaijani Service videojournalist Vusala Alilbayli looked into the controversial construction of the Four Seasons Hotel in Baku, which destroyed parts of Baku’s Old City district. Through interviews with officials, hotel managers and representatives of the contractor (owned by President Ilham Aliyev's father-in-law), as well as district residents, Alibayli contrasted what happened in Baku with the situation in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, where city officials preserved a similarly important historic site. Stunning camerawork and quality production by Alibayli and her team were cited as a winning combination by the award jury.


Russian Service Director Irina Lagunina added some levity to the debate on Russian food import bans by creating a recipe made solely from foods currently and previously banned in Russia. In a video, Lagunina demonstrates how to prepare the meal, which she named “Onishchenko Dinner” after the official who was responsible for the bans -- Chief Sanitary Inspector Gennady Onishchenko.

Special Project

Former Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad was notorious for making outrageous statements that cause outcry, both at home and abroad. His remarks have been called populist, vulgar, radical and offensive -- but also defended as close to the views of ordinary people. Vahid Pour Ostad of Radio Farda produced a series of reports that took a detailed look at 30 of the biggest controversies that the Iranian president caused during his 8-year presidency, asking why the president used such outlandish language and what the impact had been of his words. Pour Ostad found numerous historical voice cuts and talked to dozens of experts to produce the series, which proved popular among Farda’s listeners. The final show of the "Diction of a President" series, airing on the eve of new President Hassan Rohani’s inaugural, has been one of the most listened-to stories on Radio Farda's social networks with nearly 18,000 listeners on Soundcloud alone.

-- Zydrone Krasauskiene