Vilnius – Today, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) opens its new office in Vilnius, Lithuania, the latest step in a comprehensive strategy to counter pervasive Russian disinformation and reach new audiences with trusted, independent news and information.
RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly will be joined at an event to commemorate the office opening at MO Museum by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, the Speaker of the Parliament Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, exiled Belarusian leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Robert S. Gilchrist, former RFE/RL president and member of the RFE/RL Board of Directors Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin, and other esteemed guests.
“I am thankful to President Nauseda and the Lithuanian government for their steadfast support of RFE/RL’s mission,” said Fly. “Our new Vilnius office is a testament to RFE/RL’s decades-long partnership with the Lithuanian people. It will allow us to provide our audiences in Belarus with accurate and truthful news. I am immensely proud of our journalists who have sacrificed so much to carry out this mission and who have now found a safe haven in Lithuania.”
Announced in March 2022, RFE/RL’s new Vilnius office will host journalists exiled from Belarus in the aftermath of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s fraudulent 2020 re-election. RFE/RL’s Minsk bureau was raided and sealed, and the Belarus Service’s websites were blocked in July 2021. In December 2021, RFE/RL was designated an “extremist organization,” a label that criminalized both the reporting and consumption of RFE/RL content. Two Belarus Service journalists – Ihar Losik and Andrey Kuznechyk – remain unjustly imprisoned by the Lukashenka regime.
More than a haven, the new Vilnius office is part of RFE/RL’s efforts to counter Russian malign influence in the region. RFE/RL’s 24/7 Russian-language platform Current Time will create new video products from Vilnius for Russian-speaking audiences in Belarus as alternatives to Kremlin and other state propaganda.
Later this week, RFE/RL will also officially open its new office in Riga, Latvia, which will be a Russian-language media hub and the operational center for expanded efforts against Kremlin disinformation and censorship.
For decades, the people of Lithuania and Latvia have been enthusiastic consumers of and contributors to RFE/RL’s reporting -- both from RFE/RL’s Lithuanian and Latvian services, which operated from 1975 to 2004, and more recently from Current Time. These new offices mark RFE/RL’s physical return to Vilnius and Riga, where the services maintained bureaus from 1992 to 2004.
RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, known locally as Radio Svaboda, overcomes significant censorship accompanied by draconian criminal penalties to provide audiences in Belarus with independent reporting. In one of the most dangerous climates for journalists in Europe, the Service is known for its in-depth reporting on the Lukashenka regime, finding innovative and creative ways to reach Belarusians inside Belarus. The narrative podcast “Lukashenka’s Lackeys,” a six-part report on the tumultuous events of the summer of 2020, for example, was played over 600,000 times across all platforms. The Service’s website and social media accounts see millions of page and video views each year.
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.