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RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service: Radio Svaboda

RFE/RL's Radio Svaboda is one of the leading providers of news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language. It is a bulwark against pervasive Russian propaganda, and a trailblazer on social media.

Fast Facts

  • Established in 1954, RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, reporting in one of Europe’s most restrictive societies, defies the government’s virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media with unique livestreams from street protests, trials, rallies, and cultural events. Its distinctive social videos set a standard on social networks, and it has become a pioneer in podcasting.
  • The Service’s content runs the gamut from political analysis to literature, and across media forms. The TV roundtable Zona Svabody is the most popular analytical program on the independent satellite channel Belsat TV. In 2002, the Service launched “Liberty Library,” a growing collection of original books and DVDs that serves as an alternative means of reaching audiences. Recent additions include an authorized collection of Svaboda appearances by Nobel Literature Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich. Its book, Liberty Travels, won three prestigious literary and history prizes in Belarus in 2017, and a version of it was adapted for the stage by the world-renowned Belarus Free Theater.
  • Svaboda works with online news aggregator sites in Belarus to republish and distribute its content, enabling its unique coverage to extend far beyond its primary audience to ignite public debate on mission-related issues. Belarus is the only country in Europe that has never allowed local rebroadcasting of RFE/RL.
  • In March 2019, three Belarusian Service colleagues received inaugural “Transparent EOL” literary awards, sponsored by the virtual magazine LitPAZH in recognition of excellence in the categories of Best Literary Audiocast, Best Non-Fiction E-Book, and Best Web Literature Project on the Belarus internet.
  • February 2019, the Belarus Service received three awards in the second annual “Focus on Innovation” competition presented by the Belarusian Press Club. The winning projects were: An Alternative History of Belarus in Cartoons; the interactive quiz - “What part of my life has been under Lukashenka?;” and a series of reports on survivors of political repressions.
  • In press freedom rankings, Belarus was designated Not Free by Freedom House and ranked 174/198. Independent journalists in Belarus are constantly harassed, intimidated, fined and jailed. Unaccredited freelancers cooperating with foreign media are subject to government pressure, and defamation laws are used to intimidate the free press. A 2018 media law threatens independent reporting and expression online. Belarus is the only country in Europe that has never allowed local rebroadcasting of RFE/RL. government is still out of the question.”

Impact

  • Website: 7.94 million visits, 14.7 million page views
  • Facebook: 10.5 million video views; 140,000 followers
  • YouTube: 2.5 million views, 24,300 subscribers​
  • Instagram: 5.7 million video views; 88,000 followers
  • Twitter: 13,600 tweets; 79,000 followers

Updated: May 2019

Facts & Stats about Belarus

  • Population: 9.50 Million (World Bank estimate, 2017)
  • Most Common Languages: Belarusian, Russian, Ukranian, Polish, Yiddish
  • Press Freedom Index (Freedom House): Not Free, ranked 174 out of 198 (2017)
  • Press Freedom Index (RSF): 153 out of 180 (2019)
  • Corruption Index (Transparency Int.): 70 out of 180 (2018)
  • Global Peace Index (IES): 101 out of 163 (2018)
  • Human Rights Watch: Report on Belarus (2019)
  • Amnesty International: Belarus Report (2017/2018)​

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