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RFE/RL’s Russian Service: Radio Svoboda

Radio Svoboda is a multiplatform alternative to Russian state-controlled media, providing audiences in the Russian Federation with informed and accurate news, analysis, and opinion.

Fast Facts

  • RFE/RL’s Russian Service has played a historic role among Russian-speaking audiences since 1953, showcasing independent, contemporary voices, and providing critical discussion of current affairs while countering disinformation.
  • Operating out of a Moscow bureau and drawing on a network of correspondents across the Russian Federation, Radio Svoboda is available on its website, social networks, YouTube, satellite, and radio.
  • The service expanded its coverage in 2018 to fill gaps left by Russia’s Moscow-centric media, launching regional sites for specific geographic areas. Siberia.Realities, reporting on life past the Urals as far as Russia’s Far East, averaged nearly half a million monthly visits in its first year online. Sites targeting St. Petersburg and Russia’s northwestern regions are also planned.
  • Radio Svoboda has innovated with video blogs, original documentaries, and new digital tools to engage youth audiences in Russia who represent the country’s future, and yet have little knowledge of the country’s early days of independence and its Soviet past.
  • The Service has expanded its investigative reporting to shine a light on hidden zones of Kremlin politics and patronage. In much-quoted reports this year, it exposed the participation of Russian mercenaries in the war in Syria, and disclosed the identities of military intelligence operatives involved in the March 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.
  • In press freedom rankings, Russia was designated Not Free by Freedom House and ranked 174/198. The Committee to Protect Journalists has reported that 36 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992 in connection with their work, and condemned the government’s selective use of counter-extremism laws to police and prosecute independent media, bloggers, and social media users.
  • RFE/RL and Voice of America were designated “foreign agents” by Russia’s ministry of justice on December 5, 2017. Since May 2015, Russian state TV has aired no fewer than 10 programs produced to mispresent RFE/RL and portray its journalists as spies. Pro-Kremlin trolls seek to discredit the Russian service’s reporting and attack its journalists online.

Impact

January – December, 2018

  • Website: Over 90 million visits, a 20% increase over 2018
  • Facebook: 600,000 followers, over 44 million video views
  • YouTube: Almost 94 million views and 450,000 subscribers
  • Twitter: 300,000 followers
  • Other Social Networks: The service has an active presence on vKontakte, Telegram, Instagram, Odnoklassniki, Yandex Zen, and SoundCloud.

Updated: April 2019

Facts & Stats about Russia

  • Population: 144.50 million (World Bank estimate, 2017)​
  • Most Common Languages: Russian, more than 100 minority languages of which 27 are considered official​
  • Press Freedom Index (Freedom House): Not Free, ranked 174 out of 198 (2017)​
  • Press Freedom Index (RSF): 149 out of 180 (2019)​
  • Corruption Index (Transparency Int.): 138 out of 180 (2018)​
  • Global Peace Index (IES): 151 out of 163 (2017)​
  • Human Rights Watch: Report on Russia (2019)​
  • Amnesty International: Russia Report (2017/2018)

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