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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 in social media.

Fast Facts

  • Language: Belarusian
  • Established: 1954
  • Distribution: Radio (MW, satellite); Belsat TV; Internet (website, mobile, YouTube, social media)
  • Coverage: Radio: 1 hours daily / Belsat TV: 30 minutes weekly / Internet 24 hours
  • Locations: Prague, Minsk
  • Staff: 11 (Prague), 45 stringers and contractors

Media Environment

  • Freedom House Freedom of the Press Ranking, 2017: Not Free (174/198).
  • Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, 2018: 155/180.
  • 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 intimidate the free press.
  • The government maintains a virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media, and Belarus is the only country in Europe that has never allowed local rebroadcasting of RFE/RL. The opposition has no access to the mass media, and members are routinely subject to citations, fines, and arrests.


  • Svaboda is committed to connecting with Belarus’ next generation -- audiences with high-speed Internet access. Visits to in 2017 rose by 58 percent over the previous year, with an average of more than 1,250,000 page views per month.
  • Svaboda ranks first among Belarusian media on Facebook, Twitter, and VKontakte, with a total combined weekly engagement of over 100,000, and a combined weekly reach of almost 7.5 million views. Between 45-50 percent of all traffic comes from mobile devices. Svaboda is also making inroads on such platforms as Odnoklassniki (>90,000 followers) and Instagram (>60,000 followers).


  • Svaboda works closely with online news aggregator sites in Belarus that serve as multipliers and secondary distributors of its content, enabling its unique coverage to penetrate far beyond the service's direct audience to ignite public debate on mission-related issues.
  • Radio Svaboda's weekly TV roundtable “Zona Svabody” is the most popular analytical program on Belarusian-language satellite channel Belsat TV, watched by almost 20 percent of its audience.
  • Unique livestreams from street protests, trials, rallies, and cultural events draw record audiences to the site and its social network pages, while short, graphically annotated video clips tailored for social media are increasingly popular.
  • Since 2002, Svaboda has produced books and DVDs for its "Liberty Library" as an alternative means of reaching audiences. Recent additions include an authorized collection of Svaboda appearances by Nobel Literature Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, and a history of the founding of the short-lived (1918-1920) Belarusian People’s Republic.
  • Belarus Service journalist Anna Sous created the acclaimed 2016 series “Russia & Me,” comprising in-depth video interviews with 12 former leaders of former Soviet states.


  • In May 2018 Alexander Lukashuk, Director of Radio Svaboda, was awarded the prestigious Ales Adamovich Award, sponsored by the Belarusian PEN Center. Lukashuk received the award for his role in creating the Service’s Liberty Library series of pocket books based on RFE/RL programming, and for his authorship of the books Adventures of ARA in Belarus and Trace of the Butterfly.

Updated: September 2018

Facts & Stats about Belarus

  • Population: 9.51 Million (World Bank estimate, 2016)
  • 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): 155 out of 180 (2018)
  • Corruption Index (Transparency Int.): 79 out of 176 (2017)
  • Global Peace Index (IES): 101 out of 163 (2018)
  • Human Rights Watch: Report on Belarus (2016)
  • Amnesty International: Belarus Report (2017/2018)​

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