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RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service: Radio Svoboda

Radio Svoboda is a leader in providing audiences with informed and balanced reporting about local news, regional politics, and issues of global concern.

Fast Facts

  • Language: Ukrainian, Russian, Crimean Tatar
  • Established: 1954
  • Distribution: Internet (website, YouTube, social media), mobile, TV (national and regional channels in Ukraine), Radio (FM, UKW, cable, satellite)
  • Coverage: Radio: 19 hours 37 minutes, TV: 4 hours 25 minutes, live streams of current events
  • Location: Prague, Kyiv
  • Staff: 9 (Prague), 30 (Kyiv), dozens of stringers in Kyiv, Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and European capitals, including Brussels, London, and Warsaw

Media Environment

  • Freedom House Freedom of the Press Ranking, 2017: Ukraine--Partly Free (53/100); Crimea--Not Free (83/100).
  • Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, 2017: 102/180.
  • Most of Ukraine’s media is owned by oligarchs, a practice that affects editorial policies, as well as journalistic practices, including requiring journalists to self-censor. State TV and radio is slowly being transformed into a public broadcaster.
  • Independent media in Russian-annexed Crimea are subject to intimidation, interrogations, and persecution under restrictive Russian laws, including the law on extremism. Krym.Realii, RFE/RL’s website for Crimea, has been repeatedly blocked, most recently since August 2016. Krym.Realii contributor Mykola Semena has been indicted on separatism charges and faces up to 5 years in prison if convicted.
  • Journalists investigating corruption, including members of RFE/RL’s investigative program “Schemes,” have been subject to threats.
  • In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russia separatists have harassed and arbitrarily detained journalists, while blocking citizens’ access to independent information and news. Radio Svoboda’s website is one of many that has been banned by providers at the instruction of local authorities.


  • Radio Svoboda’s investigative TV program “Schemes” reports on corruption among Ukraine’s political elites, including Traffic Police Chief Oleksandr Yershov, who resigned within hours of the airing of a report on his activities in May 2015.
  • RFE/RL investigative reporter Mykhailo Tkach was awarded the Ukrainian national Triumph Award in the category “Best TV Reporter of 2016.”
  • Host of the TV show “Schemes,” Natalie Sedletska, received the Oleksandr Kryvenko media award for “progress in journalism” in May 2016.
  • RFE/RL boosted its reach to two strategic areas in Ukraine: in September 2015, the Ukrainian Service began broadcasting to annexed Crimea on AM; effective July 2016 it began broadcasting direct to parts of separatist-controlled Donbas on FM.
  • After Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, RFE/RL launched a website to cover events on the peninsula in three languages--Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean Tatar. The Russian research agency Medialogiya named it the second most quoted news resource in Crimea in 2015.
  • In November 2016, RFE/RL's Crimea desk contributor Mykola Semena was granted in absentia a press freedom award named after Pavel Sheremet by the Civil Society Forum of the EU Eastern Partnership.
  • In February 2016, Krym. Realii produced a 20-minute documentary about the annexation, entitled “Crimea.Unconquered,” that was shown on numerous Ukrainian TV channels, with over 220,000 views on YouTube.
  • The Service television broadcast partners include Espreso TV, TV channel 112, News Channel 24, and many regional channels. Since January 2016 the service has reported from Brussels for leading Ukrainian TV channel 1+1. Overall, one in ten Ukrainians has seen the service’s live TV reports according to BBG survey data.
  • Radio Svoboda has about 470,000 followers on Twitter and over 220,000 followers on Facebook. In addition, the investigative reporting project “Schemes” and project for Crimea have over 55,000 followers on Facebook each.
  • The service regularly live streams important events like Nadiya Savchenko’s return to Ukraine from her imprisonment in Russia in May 2016, which was watched 925,000 times on the service’s main YouTube Channel.
  • Krym Realii’s YouTube channel in 2016 registered 930,000 average monthly video views, a number that tripled when compared with the previous 12 months.
  • The service’s websites drew 52.8 million visits and 93.2 million page views in 2016.

Updated: 1 May 2017

Facts & Stats about Ukraine

  • Population: 45.198 million (World Bank estimate, 2015)
  • Most Common Languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Crimean Tartar, Yiddish
  • Press Freedom Index (Freedom House): Partly Free, ranked 53rd out of 199 (2017)​
  • Crimea--Not Free, ranked 94th out of 100 (2017)
  • Press Freedom Index (RSF): 102nd out of 180 (2017)
  • Corruption Index (Transparency Int.): 130 out of 168 (2015)
  • Global Peace Index (IES): 156 out of 163 (2016)
  • Human Rights Watch: Report on Ukraine (2016)
  • Amnesty International: Ukraine Report (2015/2016)

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