Crucial News Service Dies

Religious freedom champion Keston Institute shifts focus

Keston Institute, a pioneering voice for religious freedom in the former Soviet bloc, dropped its acclaimed news service in January.

"There were irreconcilable disagreements between me and several key members of the Keston Council," said former director Larry Uzzell, who resigned in December. He said the council believed that he was "giving too high a priority to monitoring current threats to religious freedom."

Keston founder Michael Bourdeaux, however, said the problem was money. "Keston [News Service] was spending something like $300,000 a year keeping in place three full-time correspondents, all with huge travel, telephone bills, and overheads," Bourdeaux said. "The hoped-for income to offset this simply did not materialize."

Trustees of the Keston Institute who had supported Keston News Service stepped down in January. One, Leonid Finkelstein, said KNS "was the most viable and important product of Keston Institute. Without KNS, the value of Keston is nil."

Former KNS staffers are finding other means to publish religious news in the former Soviet bloc. Uzzell now edits Chechnya Weekly, published by the Jamestown Foundation, a think tank that studies security issues. Former KNS staff members Igor Rotar, Geraldine Fagan, and Felix Corley launched the Forum 18 news service. Based in Oslo, Forum 18 will emphasize on-the-spot reporting on religious rights.

Keston Institute, meanwhile, will make its archives more accessible to the public. Keston is formalizing its relationship with Oxford Universtiy and providing commentary for the BBC on religious liberty issues.

Bourdeaux said, "It's in its witness to and documenting of this process of survival and revival, I believe, that Keston's main contribution lies."

Anita Deyneka, president ...

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Christianity Today
Crucial News Service Dies
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May 2003

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