Friday, July 31, 2015

RFE/RL's Radio Svoboda

Radio Svoboda is the leading international broadcaster in Russia and a leading locally-based alternative to state-controlled media. Radio Svoboda is an innovative, multi-media provider of accurate, independent and wide-ranging news and analysis.


Fast Facts

  • Language: Russian
  • Established: 1953
  • Distribution:  Radio (SW, cable, satellite; limited FM-see "Affiliates"), Internet (website, mobile, YouTube, social media)
  • Coverage: Radio: 24 hours daily via Internet and satellite, 15 hours daily via SW
  • Locations: Prague headquarters, Moscow
  • Staff: 37 (Moscow), 27 (Prague), approx.100 stringers throughout Russia and the world
  • Affiliates: Radio Svoboda had almost 30 local affiliates in 2005; virtually all have stopped carrying its programs as a result of political pressure


Media Environment

  • Defamation was decriminalized in 2011, but many public officials have successfully initiated defamation cases and severe punishments are imposed.
  • Russia continues to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented 36 murders of journalists in Russia since 1992; of these, 16 remain unsolved. Violent attacks against journalists are frequent and brutal.
  • In January 2015, the Russian Duma began consideration of a law banning “undesirable foreign organizations.” The law, which has been harshly criticized by rights groups, is expected to pass the Duma and be signed by President Putin, and follows a 2012 law on “foreign agents” that forced many civil society organizations to limit their work or shut down entirely. 


  • In January and February 2015, the service recorded more than 15 million page views and over 7 million visits to the website, per month. October and November 2014 saw 10 and 11 million page views respectively. The growth is the reaction of the Russian audience to the strength of the content on the poor state of Russia’s economy and the crisis in Ukraine.

  • Live coverage of Moscow's "March for Peace" helped push the Russian Service’s YouTube video views past 1,200,000 in September 2014. Live coverage of protests following the conviction of opposition activist Alexei Navalny drove YouTube viewership past 2,000,000 in December 2014. Coverage of the reaction to the killing of the Russian oppositions leader Boris Nemtsov drew viewership to 3.3 million in February 2015. Thus, in five months the viewership of Svoboda YouTube channel grew almost 3 times.

  • The Service launched new video and radio programs in 2014 and 2015, to complement its video and audio programming and web and social media content. "Déjà vu," hosted by Russian journalist Alexandr Podrabinek, looks at Soviet era repressive mechanisms and compares it to the same mechanisms in today's Russia. "Roads to Liberty," produced in Kyiv and hosted by journalist Vitaly Portnikov, examines common issues facing Russia, Ukraine, and other post-Soviet countries. The “Cult Of Personality” video talk show highlights the people who have their own voice in an authoritarian state. The “Archeology” radio program, with its star moderator Sergei Medvedev covers the social and cultural problems of today’s Russia.

  • In January 2014, the service published a dramatic multimedia project, “Sochi 2014: Outside the Arena” that looked at the environmental, social, and human costs associated with the Sochi Winter Games.

  • Radio Svoboda is increasingly popular on Russian social networking sites such as vKontakte, Surfingbird, YouTube, Instagram and Soundcloud. The Service actively engages with its audience on Facebook, where it has over 310,000 followers, and on Twitter, where it has over 110,000 followers. 

Updated: 9 June 2015

Facts & Stats

143.5 million (World Bank estimate, 2013)

Most Common Languages:
Russian, more than 100 minority languages of which 27 are considered official

Press Freedom Index (Freedom House):
Not Free, ranked 181 out of 199 (2015)

Press Freedom Index (RSF):
152 out of 180 (2015)

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

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

Human Rights Watch:
Report on Russia (2015)

Amnesty International:
Russia Report (2014/2015)