Riga – Today, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) launches its new office in Riga, Latvia. Announced in March 2022 after the forced closure of RFE/RL’s Moscow bureau following the Kremlin’s decades-long assault on independent media in Russia, the new office is part of RFE/RL’s efforts to counter Kremlin disinformation and provide Russian speaking audiences with trusted news and objective reporting.
At an event commemorating the launch at the Latvian National Museum of Art, RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly will be joined by Latvian President Egils Levits, Latvian Minister of Culture Nauris Puntulis, U.S. Ambassador to Latvia John Carwile, and distinguished members of the government of Latvia.
“I am honored that RFE/RL journalists have been welcomed here in Riga by the Latvian government and community,” said Fly. “Having historically served Latvian audiences during a difficult period in Latvia’s history, we are excited to be able to work together to tackle Russia’s malign influence and provide hope to those who are still denied freedom.”
RFE/RL’s Riga office will eventually be one of the company’s largest reporting hubs, with state-of-the-art facilities for Current Time -- a 24/7 Russian-language news platform -- and Russian Service journalists forced out of Russia in March 2022. The office will produce expanded Russian-language content offerings, including investigative journalism and non-news programming for the soon-to-be-launched streaming platform Votvot. Current Time’s popular morning show, which frequently trends number one on Russian YouTube, will be produced from Riga, along with the Russian Service’s signature YouTube news shows.
In addition to meeting the demand for independent news within Russia, RFE/RL’s Riga office will produce Russian-language content for audiences in the Baltics, wider Europe, and beyond. A new daily news program will cover the Baltic region, providing an important counterpoint to disinformation about the three EU members and the freedoms enjoyed by their citizens.
A Digital Innovation Lab will test new storytelling formats that are scalable and replicable at RFE/RL and within the broader media community. In partnership with the Open Technology Fund, the Digital Innovation Lab will examine new ways to respond to Russian censorship and disinformation across RFE/RL’s markets.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, traffic to RFE/RL websites from within Russia has increased to record numbers despite significant Kremlin censorship. Both at the war’s start and at key moments, video views from within Russia surged, demonstrating the immense appetite of Russian-language audiences to know the truth. RFE/RL’s award-winning coverage is meeting this demand with extensive reporting on Russian atrocities, conscription, and more.
Earlier this week, RFE/RL also opened a new office in Vilnius, Lithuania to reach growing Belarusian- and Russian-language audiences in Belarus in response to state propaganda and censorship.
For decades, the people of Latvia and Lithuania have been enthusiastic consumers of and contributors to RFE/RL’s reporting -- both from RFE/RL’s Latvian and Lithuanian services, which operated from 1975 to 2004, and more recently from Current Time. These new offices mark RFE/RL’s physical return to Riga and Vilnius, where the services maintained bureaus from 1992 to 2004.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people every week in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 7 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram in FY2021. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.