Rim Gilfanov is the Director of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, known locally as Radio Azatliq. He joined RFE in 1990, and was promoted to Service Director in 2006. Prior to joining RFE, Rim wrote for the Kazan-based newspaper "Donya." We sat down with Rim to discuss his beginnings as a journalist and the cultural fragmentation that Radio Azatliq seeks to address.
What impact is Radio Azatliq having in Tatar-Bashkir?
Azatliq is the only major international broadcaster for the Tatar and Bashkir communities in Russia, where the federal government implements a policy of suppressing ethnic minorities' language rights. Furthermore, we are the preeminent news organization that broadcasts in both the Tatar and Bashkir languages. Broadcasting in native languages is inseparable from RFE/RL's core mission. It attracts audience and builds confidence, thus making Azatliq a trustworthy and reliable media outlet.What is one popular program or aspect of your service that is making a difference?
Azatliq unites the wider Tatar-Bashkir world, which is divided by administrative borders inside Russia. This means that Azatliq has essentially become an all-Tatar media with a vast network of stringers. I will say that we are very proud of our up-to-date web features (EDS: e.g. forums, user-generated content, citizen journalism), and our ability to engage the audience in discussions about the problems we face as a society.
What motivated you to get into journalism? RG:
Azatliq unites the wider Tatar-Bashkir world, which is divided by administrative borders inside Russia.
It was RFE! I started listening to RFE/RL's Tatar broadcasts when I was going to secondary school in the Soviet Union. It was a deeply totalitarian time, when all the Western broadcasts were jammed and listening to them was considered a hostile, antisocial activity. The very fact that an international broadcast in my native Tatar language existed gave me hope that despite all Soviet repressions against the Tatar language and education, my language would live on. I became a staunch supporter of Azatliq and started thinking more about my roots and self-identification. After the fall of Iron Curtain I was offered a job as a stringer and later joined the staff in Munich.