Monday, April 27, 2015

RFE/RL's Belarus Service

RFE/RL's Radio Svaboda is one of the leading providers of news and analysis to Belarusian audiences and one of the few news outlets accessible to Belarusians in their own language.

Fast Facts

  • Language: Belarusian
  • Established: 1954
  • Distribution: Radio (AM, SW, satellite), Belsat TV, Internet
  • Coverage: Radio: four hours daily, Belsat TV: 30 minutes weekly
  • Locations: Prague, Minsk
  • Staff: 12 in Prague, 34 stringers

Media Environment

  • Often referred to as the "last dictatorship in Europe," Belarus is one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world. Independent journalists are under constant threat of physical violence and arrest. Defamation laws are still widely used, particularly to provide protection for government officials.
  • Members of the opposition have no access to the mass media and are routinely imprisoned. Since 2010, international human rights groups have recognized several imprisoned activists and politicians as political prisoners. Belarus is the only country in Europe that has never allowed local rebroadcasting of RFE/RL.


  • Svaboda focuses its efforts on connecting with Belarus' large number of people with high-speed Internet access. In 2013, visits and page views have increased by more than 20 percent, compared to the same period in 2012. Online radio listenership increased by 10 percent in 2013 while video viewership has nearly doubled.
  • Svaboda aggressively seeks younger audiences on social networks. Since January 2012, the number of subscribers to the Services pages on both Facebook and VKontakte has risen dramatically, with monthly reach on each network exceeding 200,000
  • Svaboda works closely with popular online news aggregate sites in Belarus that serve as multipliers and secondary distributors of Svaboda content. Key mission oriented coverage penetrates far beyond the Service's direct audience and ignites debate on mission related issues.
  • Radio Svaboda's weekly TV roundtable “Zona Svabody” is the most popular analytical program on Belsat TV, watched by almost 20 percent of the channel’s audience.
  • For the past decade, Svaboda has produced a unique print and DVD "Liberty Library" as an alternative means of reaching new audiences; it engages with them at weekly audience meetings held throughout the country that build lasting relationships with young listeners. In 2013, its book “Who Blew up the Minsk Metro?” drew high praise from the public and professional colleagues.
  • Svaboda radio programming is listened to in Belarusian prisons. Many former political prisoners and their families have expressed deep appreciation for the service’s unwavering support.
  • Radio Svaboda’s historic “Voices of Solidarity” project featured the names of hundreds of Belarusian activists jailed in the wake of the December 2010 election. These names were voiced on the air by such renowned figures as Vaclav Havel and George W. Bush, U.S. senators and congressmen, as well as by other international leaders, intellectual and cultural elite.

updated: 28 June 2013

Facts & Stats

9.464 Million (World Bank estimate, 2012)

Most Common Languages:
Belarusian, Russian, Ukranian, Polish, Yiddish

Press Freedom Index (Freedom House)
Not Free, ranked 193 out of 197 (2014)
"Worst of the Worst" (2012)

Press Freedom Index (RSF):
157 out of 180 (2015);
"Enemy of the Internet" (2012)

Corruption Index (Transparency Int.):
119 out of 175 (2014)

Global Peace Index (IES):
96 out of 162 (2014)

Human Rights Watch:
Report on Belarus (2013)

Amnesty International:
Belarus Report (2013)