RFE/RL is a unique source of information about many of the world's political hotspots, including Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, Belarus, and 19 other countries in our broadcast region. Our journalists and experts are available for media interviews or to provide background information on a wide variety of subjects and issues.
Briefly...About Media Freedom
Series Of Short Video Interviews With RFE/RL Journalists
Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places to work as a journalist. RFE/RL has lost four colleagues to targeted attacks since 2018, most recently in December 2020. We ask RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan journalist Malali Bashir about the challenges faced by reporters.
Ebrahim Raisi was just sworn into office as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, following a highly controlled election lacking in credible opponents to Raisi. RFE/RL asks Radio Farda journalist Hooman Askary who Raisi is, and what his presidency might mean in Iran -- and internationally.
RFE/RL Regional Director for Europe and TV Production Kiryl Sukhotski describes Russia's (mis)use of its "foreign agent" media law to threaten the ability of RFE/RL Russia-oriented reporting projects to report the news.
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Qadir Habib has served as Director of RFE/RL's Afghan Service since April 2019. Previously, he was the Service’s managing editor, supervising 12 hours of daily broadcasts to millions of listeners inside the country and among the Afghan diaspora worldwide. He was one of the first journalists to join the Service in 2002, and has worked both at its bureau in Kabul and headquarters in Prague. In his various roles, he has reported groundbreaking stories, conducted exclusive interviews with policymakers and leaders, and hosted popular talk shows on Afghanistan’s security, political, economic, and social issues. Habib holds a Master of Arts degree in Strategic Communication from La Salle University in Philadelphia, and a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Cairo University in Egypt.
Expertise: Anti-Terrorism and militancy in Af-Pak region, Afghan politics and media
Malali Bashir is an award winning journalist and senior editor with RFE/RL’s Afghan Service, known locally as Radio Azadi. Bashir, who is from the greater Kandahar region, reports on a range of topics related to Afghanistan, often with a women’s rights perspective. She is the producer and presenter of a Pashto video and TV show about Afghans with significant achievements in the diaspora, particularly women. Bashir received the Afghan Professionals Network’s (APn) 2018 Aspire Award for outstanding achievement in the Media sector. She is also Winner of the 2015 Social Media Award in the Twitter Power User category in Afghanistan. She often speaks on different issues from human rights to terrorism, peace and security, misinformation, disinformation, and extremist propaganda. Along with her work at RFE/RL, Bashir has written for BBC Pashto, Foreign Policy, and The Daily Times, and has edited Afghan magazines. Prior to her journalistic work, Malali was a Fulbright scholar at Brandeis University, Massachusetts.
Expertise: Women’s rights, civil society
Abubakar Siddique is a journalist specializing in coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the editor of RFE/RL's "Gandhara" website. He has spent the past fifteen years researching and writing about security, political, humanitarian, and cultural issues in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Pashtun heartland where he was born. In addition to his reporting, Siddique speaks frequently at prominent think tanks in several countries, and has contributed articles, chapters, and research papers to a range of publications. Siddique's unique expertise is brought to bear in “The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan” book. (London: Hurst and Company, 2014). Abubakar Siddique has been cited by international press, including the Wall Street Journal.
Expertise: Afghanistan, Afghanistan-Pakistan issues, tribal regions
Mustafa Mohammad Sarwar
Mustafa Mohammad Sarwar is a Prague-based broadcaster and journalist with Radio Azadi, RFE/RL’s Afghan Service. He began working with the Radio in Kabul in 2002 and joined the main headquarters in 2005. Sarwar has been covering a wide range of topics on Afghanistan including stories related to Afghan women and youth, key NATO and EU summits on the country, and issues related to Afghan refugees both in Afghanistan and abroad. He produced several well-received programs and short documentaries on Afghan refugees including a feature story on Afghan migrants in the Greek Island of Kos in 2015, which was picked by Reuters and Canada's Global News Station as well as some local media. Additionally, his short documentary in 2012 under the title of In Kabul, IDPs Find Security, Little Help received an honorary award by Webby Awards presented annually by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. He also worked for a popular national TV station TOLO TV from 2003-2004 in Kabul. He received a diploma in Journalism and News Writing from London school of Journalism, an MA degree in Business Communication from La Salle University and graduated from Kabul Medical University.
Expertise: Afghan migrants and refugees in Europe, Security, Extremism in Afghanistan
Heghine Buniatyan has been appointed as Acting Director for RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. Previously, she worked as a senior editor with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service since June 2016. She has previously served as the editor-in-chief of the Yerevan bureau, a broadcaster, and as the director of the Maxliberty Youth Program. Before joining RFE/RL in 2004, she worked for Armenian Public Television as a correspondent and anchor of the midnight news, and as a freelancer at Internews, contributing weekly reports for radio and television. A graduate of Yerevan State University and Moscow State University with a degrees in journalism, Buniatyan also participated in a number of journalism and leadership training courses in Armenia and abroad. In 2004 she won first prize in the OSCE media awards in the Best Radio Journalist category for highlighting environmental issues.
Siranuysh Gevorgyan, the Yerevan Bureau Director and Editor-in-Chief for RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, has been with the organization since 2010. She began as a web site (Azatutyun.am) editor, subsequently becoming the Bureau Director in April, 2016. Formerly she worked at local news web site ArmeniaNow.com covering domestic and foreign politics and social issues. Gevorgyan holds a M.D. in Journalism from Yerevan State University. She is fluent in English and Russian.
Ilkin Mammadov is the director of RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service. Having joined RFE/RL in 2004, he has reported on major news events and played a lead role in launching several of the service’s signature programs on FM, TV, and the web. Previously, he worked for Internews-Network and several local TV stations in Baku, Azerbaijan. Mammadov holds an MBA degree from the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business, and a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baku State University.
Milos Teodorovic is Acting Director of the Balkan Service. Teodorovic joined RFE /RL in 1999, and in December 2015 he became the Bureau Chief of RFE/RL’s Serbian Service. As a RFE/RL journalist Teodorovic received numerous awards for investigative journalism, radio and TV journalism, among which his "Gaffe of the Week" column was honored with the American Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts award (2014). Milos also received awards from the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia for his story on Serbian right-wing extremists (2012) and an EU investigative journalism award for his documentary on protected witnesses associated with war crimes in Serbia (2014).
Dragan Stavljanin is a journalist with RFE/RL's Balkan Service. Originally based in Belgrade, he joined RFE/RL in 1999 in Prague, where he has produced analyses on Balkan-Russia relations, Balkan-EU relations, post-communist political and economic transitions and ethnic conflicts; moderated nighttime radio programs; and interviewed numerous foreign politicians and experts. In 2008 he authored a radio and Internet series on frozen conflicts in the Southern Caucasus. Stavlijanin has been interviewed about the Balkans by media in the U.S., Russia, Iran, France, Poland, the Baltic States, and in the Czech Republic. He holds a Ph.D and is the author of the books “Cold Peace: Caucasus and Kosovo” and “The Balkanization of the Internet and the Death of Journalists.”
Expertise: Serbia, Balkan region, Frozen Conflicts
Dzenana Halimovic has worked as a correspondent for RFE/RL since 2005. She began working as a journalist in Bosnia in 1998, reporting for the Bosnian dailies “Oslobodenje” and “Vecernje novine,” and later for the magazine “Start BiH” and the national TV station BHRT. Her main reporting interests are war crimes and organized crime, as well as major political and security issues in the region. She won an Amnesty International Global Human Rights Award and an award from the Bosnian Journalists Union for the best investigative story in 2003.
Expertise: war crimes, terrorism, organized crime and corruption.
Asja Hafner joined RFE/RL’s Balkan service in 2017 as Digital Media Manager, running the newly-formed digital unit in Sarajevo, Bosnia. From January 2020, Asja works as the Special Project Editor for the Balkan Service in Prague. She is editorially in charge of the dialogue platform Not In My Name; content related to issues tackling radicalization and extremism, primarily in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans region; and the Facebook platform "Why?" where RFE/RL's Balkan Service invites its audience to engage in dialogue on a spectrum of questions. Hafner is also editor of the Balkan Service newsletter Dnevno@RSE. Her career in journalism began in 1993 when she worked for the magazine DANI, one of the few newspaper outlets issued in Sarajevo under the siege. Asja and a team of colleagues won the 2017 City of Sarajevo Award for their contribution in the field of science and education. She has also worked for TV, documentary film, and multimedia projects as an author, editor, researcher, producer, and curator. Her interests lie in social and cultural studies, political and contemporary anthropology, gender and identity studies, visual arts, literature and philosophy, digital humanities, and ethics in journalism.
Expertise: Radicalization of Balkan societies, war in former Yugoslavia (91-99), political sociology, digital&new media
Zoran Kjuka has been the Head of the Macedonian Unit of RFE/RL's Balkan Service since it was created in September 2001. Kjuka is a journalist with over 30 years of experience, including reporting, editing, and managing traditional and digital media in Macedonia, as well as contributing to and developing one of the most complex multimedia operations within RFE/RL. Before RFE/RL, Zoran worked as a reporter, editor, anchorman for Macedonian Radio (Skopje) and TV Telma (Skopje). He has also worked as a correspondent for Radio and TV Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatian Independent (Nezavisni) Radio 101, and Slovenian Radio Student. As a journalist, Kjuka has reported on some of the most dramatic events of our time in the Balkans, including the war in Kosovo and the conflict in North Macedonia. Kjuka has also served as a columnist for several Macedonian newspapers. Zoran has a B.A in Geography from Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje and completed an journalism internship at ABC 27 News Harrisburg, PA from April-June 1999. Kjuka has been named “The Best Journalist in Macedonian Radio” in 1997.
Expertise: North Macedonia, Balkan politics
Marija Mitevska is a senior journalist based in North Macedonia with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, providing TV interviews and video reports for the station’s website. Before joining RFE/RL in 2009, Mitevska worked at the popular Macedonian TV station A1. In 2014, she was the only Macedonian journalist to win a Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. Also in 2014, she received an honorable mention in the Macedonian Institute of Media’s Nikola Mladenov competition for one of her investigative reports. Mitevska holds a degree from the School for Journalism and Public Relations in North Macedonia.
Expertise: North Macedonia, Corruption, Multimedia
Alex Znatkevich is a veteran multi-media journalist with RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service. Prior to joining RFE/RL, Znatkevich worked for the Belarusian independent news agency BelaPAN, and was a correspondent for the internet journal Transitions Online. In 2001 he authored a chapter on Belarusian media in Polls Apart, a publication of the British Institute for War and Peace Reporting. His work has also appeared in such publications as Foreign Policy (US), Babylon (Czech Republic), and ARCHE (Belarus).
Expertise: Domestic politics, foreign policy
Vitali Tsyhankou, a Minsk-based broadcaster for RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, has been with the service since 1994. Tsyhankou prepares the “Expertise of Liberty” program and “Hero of the week” interview, and writes his columns. Previously, he worked for the newspaper Zviazda, and was the Belarus correspondent for the Associated Press and the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaja Gazeta. He was also a columnist and political analyst for the most popular independent newspaper, Svaboda. In 1991, Tsyhankou co-founded the Belarusian first independent BELAPAN news agency. He was awarded the Ales Adamovich prize by the Belarusian PEN-club for his commentaries and articles. In 1997, he was recognized as one of the three best political journalists by a survey conducted among Belarusian journalists, editors, and analyst. He was also awarded a prize for columns and analytical articles by the Belarusian Association of Journalist, Volnaje Slova (Free Word). Tsyhankou graduated from the faculty of journalism at the Belarusian State University in 1992. He speaks Belarusian, Russian, English, and Czech.
Ivan Bedrov is the Director of RFE/RL’s Bulgarian service, which was relaunched in January 2019. Over the course of a 24-year-long career in Bulgarian media, Bedrov has worked as a radio reporter for RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service in the late 1990s, and as a current affairs program producer and host for the country’s first private national TV station, bTV. In 2014, he was made deputy editor-in-chief of the leading news and analytical website ClubZ.bg. He has also worked as a political commentator for the international broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Bedrov was a member of the Bulgarian Commission for Journalism Ethics and has won a number of journalism awards.
Central Asia Regional
Hamid Ismailov recently joined RFE/RL as the Regional Director of RFE/RL’s Central Asian Services. Previously, Ismailov worked for the BBC World Service, where he spent 14 years as head of the Central Asian and Caucasus division before moving on to the Executive Editor post. An accomplished correspondent, novelist, and author, he was BBC World Service's first appointed Writer-in-Residence, and also has spearheaded new media and podcasting initiatives for the World Service in Russia.
Reid Standish is a correspondent in RFE/RL's Central Newsroom in Prague and the author of the China In Eurasia briefing, a monthly newsletter tracking China's growing footprint from Eastern Europe to Central Asia. Prior to joining RFE/RL, Reid worked as an editor at Foreign Policy magazine in Washington and as the magazine's correspondent in Moscow. He has also reported for POLITICO Europe, Coda Story, and the Washington Post, and appeared on the BBC, MSNBC, Deutsche Welle, and Public Radio International. Reid has worked as a journalist across Europe and Central Asia and conducted exclusive interviews with leaders, officials, and policymakers. He focuses on Chinese influence and foreign policy and has reported on major China stories, such as the Belt and Road Initiative projects and the internment camps in Xinjiang, on the ground. Reid holds a Bachelor's degree in International Studies from Simon Fraser University in Canada and a Master's degree from the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom.
Expertise: Chinese foreign policy, Eurasia, Central Asia, US-China relations, China-Europe relations, Xinjiang, China-Russia, Belt and Road Initiative.
Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent in RFE/RL's Central Newsroom and editor of the award-winning Persian Letters blog. She was previously chief editor of RFE/RL‘s Persian Service, Radio Farda. Her reporting and analysis on Iran have been cited by The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, The Los Angeles Times, and The Weekly Standard, and she is frequently sought out to provide commentary on Iran, including by CNN, NPR, BBC, and Czech, Slovak, Polish, Argentinian, and South African television and radio channels. Esfandiari has worked as a consultant on Iran with Freedom House, authoring several of their reports on human rights and press freedom in Iran. In 2013, she was tagged for the third year in a row in Foreign Policy's Top 100 Twitterati list (@GEsfandiari). Esfandiari was recently interviewed on Power Corrupts, a podcast produced by political scientist and Washington Post columnist, Brian Klaas.
Expertise: Human Rights, Iran, Media Freedom
Frud Bezhan covers Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran for RFE/RL, reporting frequently direct from Kabul and elsewhere in the region. Prior to joining RFE/RL, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed regularly to several Australian newspapers, including The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, and The Australian. His work has also been published in The Atlantic, Defense One, and Asia Times. Bezhan holds a B.A. in journalism from Monash University, Australia.
Expertise: South Asia and the Middle East
Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe Editor for RFE/RL, responsible for overseeing the newsgathering operations of RFE/RL language service correspondents in Brussels and other out-of-area European locations with a focus on EU and NATO affairs. Prior to joining RFE/RL, he worked as the press officer at the EU office of Amnesty International and as a reporter for “European Voice” covering EU affairs. Jozwiak has a Masters degree in Journalism from the University of Lund, Sweden and a Masters degree in European Politics from the College of Europe. He speaks English, French, Polish and Swedish.
Expertise: Domestic Politics, Foreign Affairs, Security & Military, EU politics
Steve Gutterman is News Editor of RFE/RL’s Central Newsroom and author of the Week In Russia newsletter. Now based in Prague, Steve lived and worked in Russia and the former Soviet Union on and off -- mostly on -- from 1989 to 2014, including postings in Moscow with the Associated Press and Reuters. He is a graduate of Williams College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Mike Eckel, a senior RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague, reports on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime, shadowy lobbying and influence campaigns in the United States and Europe, and money laundering investigations. Prior to Prague, Eckel was based in RFE/RL’s Washington bureau, where he focused on similar issues, as U.S. foreign policy toward Russia. In 2014, he covered the aftermath of the Ukraine Maidan protests, the disputed annexation referendum in Crimea, and the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine. Eckel spent most of his 20-year-long journalist career with the Associated Press, first as a freelancer and then as a reporter and editor. He was a senior correspondent in Moscow for 5 ½ years, where he traveled around the former Soviet Union covering the 2004 school hostage seizure in Beslan, the ongoing conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, as well as terrorist attacks, arms control treaty negotiations, and President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. He has also reported and edited for the Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera America, Voice of America, and the Vladivostok News. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Colby College in Maine, and a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, in Massachusetts.
Expertise: Russia, Ukraine, former Soviet Union, Kremlin politics, North Caucasus terrorism, Russian history
Current Time: TV news for Russian-speaking audiences outside Russia
Pavel Butorin is Director of Current Time, the 24/7 Russian language digital and TV network, led by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in cooperation with the Voice of America. Butorin has been with RFE/RL since 2001, first as a producer for Central News, then as a video producer for the multimedia department, and finally as managing editor for Current Time TV. He has been a leading member of the Current Time team since its inception as a 30-minute television news program in 2014, and was instrumental in its transformation into a successful 24/7 digital and television network. He is a graduate of Ohio University in the United States and has a Master’s degree in Mass Communications.
Andrei Cherkasov has been a part of RFE/RL’s Current Time unit since 2015, where he hosts the program “Footage vs. Footage” (Смотри в оба), which exposes fake news and corrects both innocent mistakes and deliberate fabrications by comparing reporting from a variety of sources to allow the viewer to decide for themselves. Prior to joining RFE/RL, Cherkasov served as Paris Bureau Chief for Channel One Russia from 2013-2015). A veteran of more than twenty years as a broadcast journalist for Russian television companies Channel One, NTV, and, in the early 1990’s, Ekho Moskvy, Cherkasov run news bureaus in Paris (2013-2015), Washington (2009-2013), and London, 1999-2006), and filed reports from war zones and major international summits throughout Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Press Freedom Issues
Diane Zeleny, RFE/RL's Director for External Affairs, is a national security and strategic communications leader with 20+ years executive experience developing and implementing successful communications, messaging, and information strategies for USG national security agencies, think tanks and non-profits. She has substantive knowledge and deep understanding of key global geopolitical challenges as well as intimate understanding of RFE/RL's target region. More recently, Diane served as vice president for external affairs and global engagement at the IRI and USIP. Previously she was also strategic communications advisor to the Atlantic Council, the McCain Institute for International Leadership, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and was vice president of strategy and communications at the Legatum Institute in London. Her rich career trajectory also included 18 + years working with the U.S. government, where she served at the SES level as director of communications and external relations at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, director of the US Department of State's Global Media Hub in Brussels, and director of communications to the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Jeremy Bransten, Acting Editor in Chief, has been with the organization in Prague since 1995. He began as a news writer and reporter focused on Russia, subsequently becoming a senior editor in RFE/RL's Central Newsroom and later its director for five years. Bransten holds a B.A. in Russian Studies from Harvard University and an MA in Central and East European Studies from the University of London. He is fluent in Russian and Czech.
Kiryl Sukhotski is the Regional Director for Europe and TV Production. He oversees all RFE/RL’s Russian-language services setting a unified strategy for Russia, as well as the Ukrainian and Armenian services. Kiryl is also responsible for Current Time TV, RFE/RL's 24/7 channel aiming at the Russian-language audience in the region. Kiryl was born in Belarus and got his MA in International Journalism from City University in London with a specialization in covering war conflicts. Prior to joining RFE/RL he had been the head of the regional Russia/CIS TV operation for Reuters and worked for the BBC in London and Moscow. Over his journalistic career he interviewed many presidents and prime ministers, CEOs, political activists and popular figures – from Hugo Chavez and Christine Lagarde to Madonna. He traveled to some 90 countries and is currently based in Prague.
Natia Zambakhidze, Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, joined RFE/RL in June 2018. She has an extensive background in TV journalism in Georgia, having worked for leading broadcasters since the early 1990’s, including TV company Rustavi 2 (1999-2006) as a reporter, anchor, host and a producer of the news and political shows. During this time, Natia covered all major political and social developments in Georgia and the region including the Rose and Orange Revolutions. Natia left journalism in 2006 and joined the foreign service. Before joining RFE/RL, she worked as a senior political counselor for the Georgian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Natia earned her Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Tbilisi.
Expertise: Georgia, domestic politics, foreign policy
Demis Polandov is a broadcaster and editor of RFE/RL’s Ekho Kavkaza unit, which produces Russian-language broadcasts for Georgia and the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2009, Polandov served as deputy editor-in-chief for the Russian daily “Gazeta,” editor for the newspaper “Business,” and editor of the political and economic section for the weekly magazine “Russian Focus,” a join project with The Economist magazine. Polandov graduated from the Finance Academy of the Russian Federation with Bachelor’s degree n Finance and a Master’s degree in Social Sciences.
Koba Liklikadze is a journalist with RFE/RL’s Georgian Service specializing in military and security affairs. He previously worked as a senior reporter for the independent Georgian newspaper ‘Sakartvelo," where he covered the Georgian-Abkhazian war (1992-93) and the Georgian- Russian war (2008). He also worked as an embedded journalist with KFOR in Kosovo 1999 and with the U.S.-led Coalition Operation in Iraq. Liklikadze has published numerous articles and analytical pieces on military and national security issues in the Caucasus region for the Jamestown Foundation and the Institute For War and Peace Reporting.
Expertise: Security & Military, NATO affairs
Tibor Vovesz is the Director and Bureau Chief of RFE/RL’s Hungarian Service re-launched in September 2020. Prior to joining RFE/RL Vovesz worked as a daily editor for the Hungarian feed of the pan-European TV network of Euronews for 5 years and for the company's central web team in Lyon for one year. He also worked as the editor for the state radio’s political and public affair morning programme. He had been program director for many privately-owned national and regional commercial radio stations over his broadcaster career and he has decades of experience in the daily and hourly news production of such outlets.
Expertise: Hungary, domestic politics, foreign policy, media market
Hannah Kaviani joined Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Persian language service, in February 2008. She covers a variety of topics in her reporting, with a special focus on Iran's Nuclear program. Between 2013 and 2015, she covered the Iran nuclear negotiations from the field in Geneva, Munich, Vienna, Lausanne, and New York. Her reporting currently focuses on Iran’s foreign policy and the post-nuclear deal era. Kaviani holds a Bachelor's degree in politics from Azad University in Tehran. Prior to joining RFE/RL, she interned with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. Before that she worked in Iran on projects for UNICEF, UNHCR, and UNDP, as well as for Atieh Bahar Consulting.
Torokul Doorov has been the Director of RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service since July 2014. He started his career with RFE/RL as a Moscow-based correspondent in 2002. Later he worked as the Kyrgyz Service’s Azattyk Plus youth program editor for several years in Bishkek. He has worked as a correspondent and presenter on Kyrgyz National TV channel’s news program and as a contributor to IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) and several Kyrgyz newspapers. Doorov also conducted journalism training for the BBC, the Bishkek Press Club, Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia, and some newspapers in Kyrgyzstan. Born in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan, he graduated from the Journalism Faculty of Moscow State University.
Mukhtar SenggirbayMukhtar Senggirbay is a Managing Editor with RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service. Before joining RFE/RL in 2020, Senggirbay served as an Assistant Professor at Suleyman Demirel University (SDU) in Almaty, Kazakhstan, teaching political science and media studies. He has also worked as a correspondent and a chief editor at several media outlets and TV channels in Kazakhstan, and as a media specialist at the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty. Senggirbay holds a PhD in Political Science from Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Almaty, an MSc in Global Conflict and Peace Processes from the University of Aberdeen (UK), and an MA in Journalism and Media Management from the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Expertise:Ethnic relations and conflicts in the former USSR, and national, religious and ethnic identity in Kazakhstan.
Darkhan UmirbekovDarkhan Umirbekov is a digital editor for RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, Radio Azattyq. Before joining RFE/RL, Umirbekov wrote feature stories and blogs for Eurasianet.org and participated in a three-month fellowship at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University. Previously, he worked for ten years as a video editor for various national channels in Kazakhstan, before moving on to positions as an analyst and website editor for several local newspapers. Umirbekov is a graduate of Kazakh National University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science; he has also earned a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Journalism School. In addition to his native Kazakh (and a moderate understanding of other regional Turkic languages), Umirbekov speaks Russian and English.
Expertise: Political system and recent history of Kazakhstan, media policy, civil society.
Venera Djumataeva is the Central Asia Russian Editor with our Central Asian Wire Service. In her current capacity, and as a broadcaster for RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service and freelancer in Bishkek, Djumataeva has covered major events in Central Asia and international topics relating to Kyrgyzstan and the region at large. Previously, she contributed to the British Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Djumataeva’s articles on Kyrgyz and Central Asian politics and social issues have been published in many of Kyrgyzstan’s independent newspapers, including Res Publica, De-Facto, Asaba, and Agym. She is frequently invited to provide expertise at the Bishkek Press Club, and for interviews on other foreign media, international TV channels. Djumataeva graduated from the History Faculty at the Kyrgyz State University.
Gulaiym Ashakeeva is the senior correspondent for RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. She joined RFE/RL in 2005 as a freelance contributor in both the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan before moving to RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters in 2010. Ashakeeva reported from the field in Kyrgyzstan during the 2010 political crisis and ethnic clashes. She has worked with the United Nations Environment Program, conducted research on water security in Central Asia for the Budapest-based Open Society Institute and Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and served as an international project coordinator for the UNDP-supported “Democratization in Kyrgyzstan” project. Ashakeeva holds a diploma in Chemistry and Technology from Kyrgyz National University in Bishkek, and a Master’s degree in International Peace Studies from the UN-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica.
Expertise: Political systems and analysis of Central Asia, Environmental Security in Central Asia.
Kubat Kasymbekov is Acting Director of the Kyrgyz Service. He first joined RFE/RL in 2010 as a Bishkek based freelance-journalist. In 2013, he started working for the Kyrgyz Service of the BBC in London. He rejoined RFE/RL at its Prague headquarters in 2016, where he currently works as a newscaster, TV/Radio host, and video producer. Kasymbekov graduated from the Communication Faculty at Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University in Bishkek. As a journalism student he contributed to several media outlets in Kyrgyzstan, including Kyrgyz National TV.
Expertise: Central Asia, Turkey, Open Source Investigations, and International Relation
Alexandru Eftode is currently the Acting Director of RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service. He began his career at RFE/RL in 2000, serving as a correspondent at the Moldova Bureau until 2002 and later serving as the bureau head until 2004. From 2004 to 2022, Eftode was stationed at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, working as a Moldovan Service Broadcaster. His broadcasting duties included writing, moderating, and producing radio shows and audio podcasts on current affairs, authoring online content, and providing guidance to field reporters. Eftode earned a master’s degree in European Studies at Charles University and a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Communication studies from the State University of Moldova. He received the “Best Journalist in Moldova” award in 2001.
Radu Benea is the host of “Transdniester Dialogues,” a weekly program produced by RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service that explores key developments in Moldova and the breakaway region of Transdniester, and a veteran journalist with the Service since 1997. He has served as chief of the Service’s Chisinau bureau, and an expert commentator during election campaigns for Chisinau’s popular television channel ProTV. Benea is a graduate of the Faculty of History and Philosophy at Babes Bolyai State University in Romania’s second-largest city, Cluj-Napoca, and has taught at the School of Advanced Journalism in Chisinau.
Expertise: Politics, Economics, Transdniester conflict
Vasile Botnaru has served as Chisinau bureau chief for RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service since 2004. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Botnaru helped found Moldova’s first independent news agency, “BASA-press,” which he owned and led from 1993 to 2003. During this same period, he also worked as a freelance correspondent for RFE/RL’s Russian Service. Botnaru began his journalism career after graduating from Moscow State University in 1980, working for numerous print, radio, news agency, and television outlets in Moldova. In 2016, he was awarded Romania’s National Order for Faithful Service, in the rank of commander. In 2015, readers of a leading magazine named him the “most trusted opinion maker in Moldova.” The same poll had earlier ranked him among Moldova’s 50 most influential people. In 2011, Botnaru was awarded Moldova’s highest civilian national award, the Order of the Republic.
Near East Regional
Andres Ilves is Regional Director for the Near East, overseeing Radio Azadi, Radio Farda, and Radio Mashaal, RFE/RL’s multi-platform content for Afghanistan, Iran, and the Pashto-speaking tribal region of Pakistan in the Dari, Pashto and Persian languages. Previously, Ilves served at the BBC World Service and BBC Global News as Head of the Persian and Pashto Service, the Somali Service, and in other senior editorial and managerial capacities. He was the founding director of Radio Azadi and Radio Farda when RFE/RL launched those broadcast services in the aftermath of 9/11. Ilves also has extensive experience in Africa, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union, graduated from Princeton University with an honors degree in Near Eastern Studies, and speaks a dozen languages.
Expertise: Afghanistan, Iran
Ekaterina Filippovich is a journalist with RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service, Kavkaz.Realii, providing independent and accurate news coverage of Russia's northern regions. Prior to joining RFE/RL at its headquarters in Prague, she served as a freelance correspondent for the North Caucasus Service for three years. Born in Stavropol, Russia, she is a graduate of Pyatigorsk State Linguistic University where she majored in political and human rights issues related to the North Caucasus.
Amin Mudaqiq is the Director of RFE/RL's Pashto-language service to Pakistan's tribal regions, Radio Mashaal. He previously served as Kabul Bureau chief for RFE/RL's Afghan Service from 2004-2011. Prior to joining RFE/RL, Mudaqiq worked in the US consulate in Peshawar as an Information Assistant, and as editor of Ittilaat, the US government's Dari/Pashto publication.
Daud Khattak is Senior Editor of RFE/RL's Pakistan Service, known as Radio Mashaal. Prior to joining RFE/RL, Khattak worked in Kabul as editor for Afghanistan's daily “Pajhwok Afghan News.” He has worked for London’s “Sunday Times” and for the Pakistani English dailies “The News International” and “The Daily Times,” covering Talibanization in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and the anti-Taliban military operations in Pakistan’s north. His analyses of the Pakistani Taliban and terrorism have been published by “The Christian Science Monitor,” “CTC Sentinel,” and The AfPak Channel, a special project of “Foreign Policy” and the New America Foundation. Khattak’s work also appears regularly on RFE/RL's "Gandhara" blog. More recently he has written on secularism in Pakistan, regional interference in Pakistan and peace talks with the Taliban. Khattak’s recently-completed research project on “Democracy and Pakistan’s Tribal Society” is being translated into Czech and will be published in 2016. Daud Khattak is a frequent contrubutor to the Diplomat.
Expertise: Pakistan, Terrorism, Ethnic Issues
Abdul Hai Kakar
Abdul Hai Kakar is a journalist with RFE/RL’s Pakistani service, Radio Mashaal. He has spent most of his two-decade long reporting career uncovering major security and political stories in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and the adjacent Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). As a field correspondent and producer for the BBC from 2002 to 2010, Kakar reported extensively on the emergence of the Pakistani Taliban, their alliances with international terrorist organizations, and Islamabad's counterinsurgency efforts. While reporting on Taliban atrocities in the northwestern Swat Valley, he helped Noble laureate Malala Yousafzai write a blog about life under the Taliban, which helped bring her story to the world. One of his most outstanding contributions to Radio Mashaal is a series of stories on the victims of war in northwestern Pakistan. Kakar is frequently interviewed by Pakistani media and regularly contributes to various media outlets in the country to offer expert opinions on a range of issues.
Ahmad Shah Azami
Ahmad Shah Azami joined RFE/RL as a journalist for its Pashto language service Radio Mashaal in 2010. Since then he has travelled to several countries to work on investigative projects. Besides covering daily events, he produces special and investigative features on extremism, religion, youth, women, and media. He publishes articles in English, Pashto, and Urdu, which also appear on Gandhara – RFE/RL’s news site for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Prior to RFE/RL, Azami worked as an anchor person for two television channels in Pakistan, where alongside broadcasting news bulletins, he presented shows on political, social, and literary issues. He has written for newspapers and magazines in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a freelance journalist, and taught International Relations for five years at BUITEMS – a public sector university in Pakistan’s southwestern Quetta city. Azami has participated in international conferences and presented research papers on political and social issues. Besides, journalism, he is pursuing his PhD in international relations in Prague, Czech Republic.
Expertise: Afghanistan, Pakistan and FATA
Elena Tănase joined RFE/RL as director of its Romanian Service in September 2020. She previously worked for eight years for Romania’s Digi24 TV as a TV anchor and producer of historical documentaries, among them 1989: The Year That Changed The World; Iron Crown; 100 Years of Communism; and, most recently, The Romanian Revolution: Why Bloodshed? She has also worked at Romania Libera newspaper and as a political editor for Realitatea TV after launching her journalistic career in the early 2000s with the Romanian Department of the BBC.
Andrey Shary is the Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, which he has held since 2016. Shary first joined RFE/RL in 1992, serving as a Croatia-based freelance contributor covering the former Yugoslavia. He has worked at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters since 1996 as a moderator, senior editor, and deputy director of the Russian Service. Before joining RFE/RL, Shary worked at several newspapers in Moscow and was published in Russian and European media. He is the author and co-author of 15 non-fiction books on the contemporary history of former Yugoslavia and Central European countries. He graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations with a degree in International Journalism.
Expertise:Russia, domestic politics, foreign policy, Central European and Baltic studies
Sergei Dobrynin has worked as an investigative journalist with RFE/RL's Russian Service since 2012. During his career with RFE/RL, Dobrynin worked as a special correspondent and an editor covering science and technology. He also hosted numerous tv shows. He now focuses on investigative journalism and open-source intelligence (OSINT). Dobrynin graduated from St. Pete State University with a degree in mathematics. He is a recipient of the Redkollegia independent media award.
Expertise: OSINT and HUMINT, anticorruption, investigative journalism, digital journalism, IT issues, popular natural sciences
Mark Krutov is an RFE/RL reporter and investigative journalist specializing in open source and human intelligence. He has worked in RFE/RL's Moscow and Prague bureaus since 2003, focusing on Russia-Ukraine relations, Russian military and intelligence activities, and corruption among high-ranked Russian officials. Before working at RFE/RL, Krutov worked in TV for several Russian media outlets. He is the author and co-author of several noted investigations, including some collaborations with Bellingcat and other investigative groups. Krutov graduated from Russian State University for the Humanities.
Expertise: OSINT and HUMINT anticorruption and security issues investigations, Russian-Ukrainian studies, digital journalism
Jaroslav Shimov has been a journalist with RFE/RL's Russian Service since 1999. He specializes in Russian foreign policy, Central and Eastern European politics and history, and Russian relations in the region. He has published three books on the history of the Hapsburg Empire and its successor states. Shimov was born in Belarus and studied history and journalism at Moscow State University.
Expertise: European history, foreign policy, international studies
Mikhail Sokolov is a political commentator, 20th-century historian, and host of the pivotal RFE/RL Russian Service video show "Face the Event." Sokolov has worked with the Russian Service since 1990 as a reporter and analyst. He was the host of many RFE/RL radio and video shows, including "Elections," "Time of Politics," and "Life Continuity." Sokolov graduated with a degree in journalism from Moscow State University and got his Ph.D. in history at the Historical Archives Institute of the Russian State Humanities University. He is the author of the book "The Temptation of Activism: Russian Republican-Democratic Emigration in the 1920s and 1930s."
Expertise: Russia, domestic politics, XXth century history
Sergey Khazov-Cassia has served as a special correspondent and documentary film-maker for RFE/RL's Russian Service since 2015. Before joining RFE/RL, Khazov-Cassia worked as a special correspondent for The New Times Magazine in Moscow. Sergey was awarded the European Press Prize in 2013 and won the Nationwide Contest for Young Foreign-Affairs Journalists in 2014. He is an author of two novels: "Another Childhood" and "Gospel From." He is a graduate of Moscow State University's Journalism School.
Expertise: minorities, grassroots activism, LGBT rights, feminism, Russian judicial system
Salimjon Aioubov was appointed Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service in April 2019. Previously, he was a senior broadcaster with RFE/RL's Tajik Service, and also Project Director for RFE/RL's Central Asian Newswire, a platform that aggregates original RFE/RL reporting and other information for Central Asian media seeking independent news. Aioubov has worked for numerous Tajik print, radio, and television outlets over the course of two decades, covering the civil war in Tajikistan and UN-mediated inter-Tajik peace talks and refugee issues resulting from the war, Organization of Islamic Cooperation conferences, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization summits. He has produced two short documentaries on Tajik issues, "Mi, Pereselentsi" (1986) and "Perpetual Returning" (1989), and published several books, most recently, “A Hundred Colors: Tajiks in the 20th Century" (Amsterdam, 2004). He graduated from Tajik State University in 1982 with a B.A. in journalism.
Khiromon Bakoeva is an editor with RFE/RL’s Tajik service, known locally as Radio Ozodi. Having joined the Service in 2003, she currently edits its Russian-language website, a platform that provides news and analysis for Russian speakers inside the country and Tajik migrant laborers abroad. She also moderates the Service’s Perekrestok show, a TV program analyzing issues in Central Asia. She earlier launched a successful youth program for the Service, drawing on a talented team of young journalists in Tajikistan. Prior to joining RFE/RL, Bakoeva worked as a reporter for the private news agency Asia-Plus, and was a coordinator at the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Dushanbe office. She graduated from Tajik State University with a degree in philology.
Expertise: Tajikistan, Politics, Womens issues
Sirojiddin Tolibov is the Managing Editor of RFE/RL’s Tajik Service. Having reported on operations against Islamic militants from the main hot spots in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan throughout his journalistic career, he is an expert on security matters, Islamic groups, human rights, and social and economic issues in Central Asia. Hundreds of his articles have been published across the globe in English, Russian, Persian, Turkish, and Uzbek. He made several short documentaries on Islamic militancy, corruption and on human rights issues in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Prior to RFE/RL, Tolibov spent 20 years with the BBC World Service’s Central Asian unit as a reporter, manager, news anchor, and editor. In 2001, he was announced the Service’s Best Reporter. He has also performed leading roles in award winning BBC radio dramas. Tolibov holds honorary masters degree from the Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies.
Expertise: security matters, Islamic groups, human rights, and social and economic issues
Rim Gilfanov has been the Director of RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service since 2006. He began reporting for the Service in 1990 as a stringer and later as a broadcaster covering ethnic and religious minority issues. Gilfanov previously wrote for the Kazan newspaper "Donya," and has published several books, including "Tatar Diaspora" (Kazan, 1993) and "Tatar Way in Reforming Islam" (Prague, April 2003). He is frequently interviewed by local Tatar media outlets. Gilfanov is a 1991 graduate of Kazan State University with a degree in sociology and political science.
Alsu Kurmasheva is an editor with RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service and manager of its new regional, Russian-language micro-site. Having joined RFE/RL in 1998, she focuses her reporting on issues within the Volga Tatar, Bashkir, and Crimean Tatar communities, with a special emphasis on ethnic and religious minority rights. Kurmasheva is regularly invited to provide expert analysis on these topics at international conferences and seminars, and her work has been published in U.S. and European media. She holds a B.A. in English and Turkish philology from Kazan Federal University in Tatarstan and a Bachelor of Business Administration from New York University in Prague.
Farruh Yusupov is Director of RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service. He originally joined RFE/RL in 2004, working as an editor with the Uzbek Service and providing major contributions to its investigative work, including a series of reports on corruption involving members of Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s family. Yusupov also launched several radio programs for the Uzbek Service, including “Health,” “The Other Side of the Coin,” and “OzodNavigator.” His 2007 radio documentary, “Uzbekistan and its Neighbors After Andijon,” was nominated for an AIB award. Before joining RFE/RL, Yusupov worked for USAID-funded projects in Uzbekistan. He has an M.A. in Linguistics from Ferghana State University, Uzbekistan.
Maryana Drach is the Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, overseeing the Service’s award-winning coverage of the country’s 2013-2014 Maidan demonstrations, Revolution of Dignity, and developments since. Under her watch, the Service has launched the impactful anti-corruption reporting project “Schemes: Corruption in Details,” as well as multiple-media programming efforts for the residents of Russia-annexed Crimea (Crimea.Realities) and war-torn eastern Ukraine (Donbas.Realities). A native of Kyiv, Drach joined the service in 1996, specializing in international affairs. She earned an undergraduate degree in international studies from Roosevelt University and holds a graduate degree in in Public Administration from the Institute of Public Administration and Local Government in Ukraine.
Natalie Sedletska is an award-winning investigative journalist and host of “Schemes: Corruption in Details,” a weekly program of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service and Ukrainian First National TV channel. In 2013 she was awarded a Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship to work with RFE/RL in Prague, a program sponsored by the Czech Foreign Ministry and RFE/RL. From 2009-2013, Sedletska was a correspondent for Ukraine’s TVi channel, where she worked on such programs as “Tender News,” a hard-hitting program reporting on corruption and public procurement. She was also an investigator and coordinator for the YanukovychLeaks initiative during 2014. Sedletska is a member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community, and the Stop Censorship journalism movement in Ukraine.
Expertise: Ukraine, anti-corruption issues
Rostyslav Khotin joined RFE/RL in 2014 and is now Senior Editor of the Ukrainian Service. He covers in particular Ukraine's foreign policy, Kyiv's relations with the EU and NATO, Ukrainian-Russian relations, international efforts to resolve conflict in Eastern Ukraine and the stand-off over Crimea, Eastern and Central Europe as well as Ukraine-US relations, and developments in the new independent states in post-Soviet territory. Before moving to Prague he worked in Brussels as a Correspondent for 1+1 TV Channel and UNIAN news agency covering the EU and NATO, prior to which he worked as Editor at the BBC World Service in London. In the 1990s he worked in Kyiv for Reuters news agency as Ukraine/Belarus/Moldova Correspondent and traveled extensively across the region -- from the Baltics to Caucasus and Central Asia. Rostyslav is a graduate of Kyiv State University.
Alisher Siddique is the Director of RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service. Under his leadership, the service has become a pioneer in using the latest digital platforms to break the information blockade in one of the world’s most closed societies. Sidikov reported on the Andijon massacre in Uzbekistan in 2005, and earlier worked for the BBC’s Uzbek service in Tashkent and London. He was named “Journalist of the Year” by Reporters Without Borders-Stockholm in 2005. He holds an M.A. and B.A. in Middle East Politics and Arabic Studies from the University of Oriental Studies in Tashkent.