Behind the Scenes: Aladin Telalagic and Kim Conger

Earlier this month, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) hosted Innovating at the Speed of News, a digital innovation expo highlighting the tools that the BBG uses to reach and engage audiences worldwide. One of the featured innovations was Pangea, a next-generation content management system (CMS), which is used across four of the BBG’s broadcasting networks and was developed by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Aladin Telalagic and Kim Conger visit RFE/RL’s offices in Washington, D.C.

Aladin Telalagic: “My proudest moment while working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty came when I received an email from André Mendes stating that Pangea was selected to be the platform for shared content management among the BBG’s broadcasters.

I have personally been working on Pangea since 1998 when we published the first version; it is now in its sixth edition. One of the reasons why Pangea is so useful is that it’s tailored for journalists. We set up three teams that looked at the CMS of the other entities and analyzed them for their technological, usability and financial elements.  Technological considerations included the scalability and reliability of the CMS, usability looked at how the user would interact with an agency’s website and the financial team considered the costs of content management.  We wanted to make sure that everyone’s voice was heard and that all opinions were taken into consideration.  As a result, Pangea is efficient and user-friendly.”

Kim Conger:  “I have worked on the Pangea platform with Aladin since 2005. It has been very rewarding to be a part of a product that has such an impact on RFE/RL’s — and now the BBG’s — mission. The RFE/RL Digital team is a very talented group of people who enjoy what we do and work very well together. We’re like a family and are fiercely protective of that. Aladin and I work very hard to get the right people with the right talent and temperament to get the job done.”

Aladin: “In addition to enabling content sharing, Pangea also makes economic sense. In this atmosphere of sequestration, we saved BBG over $1 million.  The websites are also more responsive to users.

Pangea provides the backbone for around 200 of the BBG broadcasters’ websites, including those of Voice America, Radio and TV Martí, and Middle Eastern Broadcasting Networks.  It also hosts the Global News Dashboard, mobile platforms for each entity and Showcase.  The tech team regularly updates Showcase with new training materials and design planning tools. The various BBG agencies can use the site to train themselves to use Pangea and see what their agency’s site would look like on the Pangea platform with their own branding.

The BBG has also accepted our vision for the development of mobile software.  We have spent two years analyzing the Android and iOs markets for RFE/RL and the other agencies are cloning our code to use.

On a personal level, the selection of Pangea was also very gratifying. I joined the team in 1999 as a maintenance engineer, moved up to department programmer, and now I work as the Director.  My team is very dedicated and put a lot of time and energy into the project.

I also feel personally accountable for the security of the websites hosted by Pangea.  When the Russian Government attacked RFE/RL’s website, I worked more than 24 hours to block their interference. It’s our responsibility to protect the data on the servers.  The language services, clearly, are a target.”

Kim: “The BBG has faith that our team is up to the challenge. We are meeting that challenge and it’s gratifying.”


Aladin Telalagic, Director of Internet Technology, and Kim Conger, Deputy Director,  helped create Pangea, RFE/RL‘s best-in-class content management system. Pangea now serves four of the BBG’s broadcasters. By migrating content into a shared management system, BBG has improved coordination and interoperability among our broadcasters, reduced systems duplication, and expanded in-house capability.


Voices from the Field: Franak Viačorka

The Vaclav Havel Fellowship is a joint program between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that is inspired by the former president’s belief in the transformational role of journalism in challenging tyranny.  It provides direct work experience and mentoring at RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters to journalists from countries in RFE/RL’s broadcast region where media freedom is stifled. More information about the program can be found here.

Journalists shouldn’t afraid of government. Even if it seems to be impossible, we journalists must find the opportunity to show the truth as it is.

Franak Viačorka in Belarus

When I was sixteen, my radio program “Young Voices”  appeared on the web and on air twice a month on the Belarus Service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.  The program was about my generation of youth, its activities and its struggle for freedom. I already had some journalism experience; at the age of 13, I was making reportages for independent radio stations about youth protests in Belarus and had created an informational portal about the presidential electoral campaign in 2001. “Young Voices” built on this experience and really gained traction.  After it began broadcasting, I was interrogated by the KGB for the first time. I was a teenager, and the interrogation demonstrated the power of free information to me. Once RFE/RL wrote about my detention, I was instantly released.

After this, I understood that my mission is to inspire free speech and free thought in Belarus.

As a result of my work in journalism, I have been jailed four times and expelled from the state faculty of journalism for “professional inconsistency.”  One morning I left my house to buy bread, and I was detained by two men from the security service. They handcuffed me and took me to the army in spite of the law and my own medical health.  I spent eighteen months of service in the Chernobyl Zone. Those months were like prison for me because of the “special treatment” and “political re-education” I received. I was forced to clean toilets with bare hands. I celebrated New Year 2010 in the hospital with a scab and others soldiers.

Viačorka in prison in February 2011

This did not stop me, though, because I began to write a blog about the realities of the army.

With my blog, I was fighting for the rights of myself and the other soldiers.

I took photos of the toilets and the inhuman conditions of the cells and put them on the web via an “illegal” mobile phone.

Photos of the toilets that Viačorka was forced to clean by hand. He posted these photos to his blog in protest of the inhuman conditions.

The blog became popular, and RFE/RL republished it. In some ways, the blog was a success because the soldiers and I were granted time off in the city, the right to call home, more or less edible meat, and the toilets were partly reconstructed. I was also granted the right to serve using my native Belarusian language.  Finally, I proved that I was drafted illegally.

I also managed to participate in local elections during my time as a soldier. I was registered as a candidate to the local council of deputies.  RFE/RL and my blog made me well-known in the town as ‘the people’s journalist.’  Of course, the elections were falsified, and I did not win.  However, I did succeed in proving these falsifications occurred. I hid myself in the voting cabin and made a video with a smartphone. In the ballot box, there were 750 extra ballots with the opponent’s name.

Poles even shot a feature movie based on my story, and it was shown in a majority of cinemas in Poland. It was also shown at the Cannes Film Festival.  In Belarus this movie was forbidden.

RFE/RL was the first to write about it.  You can read their story here.   The trailer for the movie is also available to watch here.

I think in Belarus, independent journalism is too strongly connected with politics.  Journalists in Belarus are being persecuted by the Government, the same and even harsher than oppositional activists.


Franak Viačorka, the first Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow at RFE/RL, is a journalist, filmmaker and political activist from Minsk, Belarus. Franak has worked as a journalist and editor for several independent publications in Belarus, including as a freelancer for the BelaPAN news agency (2005-2008), as executive editor of the Belarusan Popular Front’s monthly journal “Naviny BNF” (2005-2008) and since 2011 as director of the “Citizen Journalist” initiative Viachorka also worked from 2008-2012 with the independent satellite TV channel Belsat. Since completing his Fellowship, he has continued to work with RFE/RL as the Belarus Service’s New Media Manager and as a presenter on the RFE/RL Belarus Service program “Zona Svobody.”

In 2006 Viačorka starred in the award-winning documentary, “A Lesson of Belarusian,” which chronicled his life as a pro-democracy youth activist in the run-up to the country’s 2006 presidential elections. He is also the co-screen writer and second director of a 2013 film, “Viva Belarus,” about his army service and the circumstances faced by young conscripts.


Voices from the Field: Irina Gotisan

The Vaclav Havel Fellowship is a joint program between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that is inspired by the former president’s belief in the transformational role of journalism in challenging tyranny. It provides direct work experience and mentoring at RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters to journalists from countries in RFE/RL’s broadcast region where media freedom is stifled. More information about the program can be found here.

Irina Gotisan, left, talks with other 2013 Vaclav Havel Fellow Tahmina Taghiyeva, center, and John Todoroki of the Prague Freedom Foundation, right.

“Before receiving the Vaclav Havel Fellowship at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, I was a reporter at the national TV channel from the Republic of Moldova, Moldova 1. A reform was in progress here when I joined the news room in May 2010 that was attempting to transform the outlet from a propaganda tool by the former ruling Party of Communists to a genuine modern news room, competing with private TV stations.

I was conscious about all of the difficulties at Moldova 1, but I wanted to be part of this reform and contribute.

As a reporter at Moldova 1, I mainly covered political topics, and I produced short informative reportages during electoral campaigns. It was difficult to try to regain the confidence of Moldova 1’s viewers. Sometimes it was difficult to obtain interviews. Sometimes when I tried to speak to people in the street, they would refuse to talk to me because of the microphone I was carrying, saying that I was representing ‘the Communist’s TV.’

The new management together with a new team of editors, presenters and reporters had to work hard to restore the public trust in the main news program, Mesager – The Messenger. The task was difficult enough because some colleagues who used to work at the station during the communist regime and embraced Communist ideology tried to resist the reform. Despite the resistance, the efforts of the new team to regain the confidence of our public and to present truthful journalism at the public national channel were appreciated by the EU, the OSCE, and the U.S. State Department, as well as local media NGOs.


Seda Stepanyan, center, joined Gotisan and Taghiyeva in the studios of the Washington, DC bureau of Bloomberg News on April 8, 2013. The three women won 2013 Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowships.

The Vaclav Havel Fellowship represents a good opportunity for me to know more about documentary films. Even though Radio Free Europe produces short video features and not documentaries, but I have the possibility to learn more about how to identify an interesting topic, how to shoot and how to edit the video. Also, a very interesting experience for me was the radio journalism, because I only knew how to do television reporting. Through this fellowship, I met a lot of interesting persons.  I visited new places in the world, and I enriched myself not only professionally, but also spiritually.

After this fellowship I plan to bring my contribution to developing the new advocacy and production department at the Independent Journalism Centre back home. I also want to improve my skills and knowledge in documentary production.       

I hope that, one day, the Moldovan mass media will be appreciated as a free one in the Freedom House reports. I am also optimistic that one day the journalists from my country will be more courageous and will do more investigative materials about corruption and social issues and, after that, the persons responsible for some wrong doings, especially politicians, will be punished.

I hope that journalists will not allow anybody to influence them and that our politicians will understand that mass media is a watchdog and not a puppy with which they can play games.


Irina Gotisan, a journalist specializing in visual media and documentary film, is fulfilling her fellowship in Prague with RFE/RL’s Moldova Service. From 2010-2012, Gotisan worked as a reporter covering political and social issues for TV Moldova 1, a national, public television channel. A recipient of the Chisinau Press Club’s “Hope of the Year” award in 2010, Gotisan has held several journalism internships, including one with AICI Network, a media program funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In 2006, Gotisan joined the International Relations faculty at “Perspectiva International” University in Chisinau, where she taught courses on globalization and international relations. Gotisan is a 2012 graduate of the Television School in Bucharest, Romania and holds a Masters degree from the Academy of Public Administration in Chisinau.

Behind the Scenes: Gina Barroso

Gina Barroso with Rosa María Payá

Gina Barroso with Rosa María Payá

“The death of Oswaldo Paya was a huge moment for me. He’s a name that I remember hearing growing up. My parents mentioned him often. He was a household name. He died in a car crash in 2012. I cried. One day you are writing about his work and the impact. The next day, his death. I found out about his death while at work at OCB. Initially, the staff worked to confirm the news. We had all of the monitors tuned to news on his death. Everyone went live with the news, it was that huge. We were one of the first to broadcast the news. The Cuban government, at the time, said his driver lost control of the vehicle and ran into a tree. Not everyone believes that story. We always felt there was foul play.

Oswaldo Paya was a wonderful human being, a spiritual man. He never gave up fighting for democracy. To lose someone like that is a huge loss to the entire country. Cubans on the island who are aware of him were touched by his death. He was very involved with the Catholic Church. When he died the Pope sent a letter of condolence to his family. Through the church in Cuba, many young people knew who he was.

What is making his legacy even more important now is his daughter. She is a world traveler and visited the White House and the U.N. to carry on his work. She is making sure that next generation of Cubans will know his importance.

One week, Oswaldo Paya’s daughter, Rosa María, visited the OCB studios. Her visit to the studios was emotional and all of a sudden, she turned, and came to me and gave me a hug. I have no idea why she chose to hug me. I could not help myself and started crying. We are family and we are here for our family in Cuba. We are not going to stop until all Cubans have the same liberty and opportunities.

We are the only thing they know, we are their voice.”

Gina Barroso works as a Public Affairs Specialist for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami, Florida. The Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) oversees the operations of Radio and TV Martí from its headquarters in Miami, Florida. Radio and TV Martí serve as consistently reliable and authoritative sources of accurate, objective, and comprehensive news for people in Cuba, where media are controlled and highly censored by the authorities.

Happy Willis Conover Day!

Whereas, on April 25, 2009, the Big Band Jam will honor the Voice of America and Willis Conover and the joint contribution toward spreading the language of jazz and American cultural diplomacy around the world over a span of more than 35 years;

In April 2009, a resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives proclaiming April Jazz Appreciation Month, and April 25 to be Willis Conover Day.

April 25 was Willis Conover Day! Find out more about Willis Conover, and his legacy in cultural diplomacy and international broadcasting, by watching the VOA YouTube clip up top and reading about him on Inside VOA & What’s Up VOA.

Yesterday the VOA House Band put on a program to commemorate this important day!

Do you have a personal memory of Willis Conover? What does jazz mean to you? Please leave us a note in the comments!

BBG Broadcasters Provide Unique, Global Coverage of Boston Bombings

Running shoes hang on a fence at a makeshift memorial near the Boston Marathon finish line in Boston’s Copley Square Thursday, April 25, 2013 in remembrance of the Boston Marathon bombings. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


Each of the broadcasters in the BBG network provided breaking news on the April 15 bombing of the Boston Marathon and the resulting manhunt. Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks immediately sent reporters and camera crews to Boston to get important information to their audiences. Extensive coverage included eye witness accounts from bystanders, runners and first responders, as well as global reaction to the identification of the suspects. Hover over the image above to learn more, or visit to read more!

RFE/RL Celebrates Havel Fellows, Discusses Press Freedom in Eastern Europe

 David Kramer directs questions to the Havel Fellows Gotisan (left), Stepanyan (center) and Taghiyeva (right) during a panel discussion April 9


Media freedom was celebrated last night as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty held a panel discussion entitled “Media Freedom in the European Neighborhood: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova” last night, April 9, 2013, at the Embassy of the Czech Repulblic that featured this year’s recipients of the Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship.

Havel fellows, Seda Stepanyan from Armenia, Tahmina Taghiyeva from Azerbaijan, and Irina Gotisan from Moldova, served as panelists and discussed the freedom of press in their own countries. The event was moderated by David Kramer, President of Freedom House, which compiles an annual report, Freedom in the World, on the state of global freedom.

The Fellows also presented videos that they had produced, demonstrating their excellent journalism and multimedia skills.  Following the presentations and a round of questions prompted by Kramer, the discussion was opened up to the audience.

Gotisan responded that she and the other Fellows could be optimistic about the future because they are, “young and smart” when an audience member asked about the potential for increased freedom in Eastern Europe. Each of the Fellows agreed that the legacy of the Cold War and their nations’ transition to democracy still play a role in the level of freedom enjoyed, but they were also enthusiastic that programs like the Havel Fellowship helped to encourage objective journalism.

Fellows Gotisan and Taghiyeva discuss press freedom with John Todoroki of the Prague Freedom Foundation


This is the second year in which Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has awarded the Havel Fellowship. This year’s recipients have extensive experience working in journalism in their home countries.  The program is open to promising journalists with English fluency from the Russian Federation and the European Partnership Countries: Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.  Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis and offer on-the-job training alongside RFE/RL’s seasoned professionals.