RFE/RL reaches 18 million people in 28 languages and in 21 countries, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ukraine, and Russia. RFE/RL journalists provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate. Its programming focuses on local and regional developments in places where the media are not free or are engaged in a transition from totalitarian control, and where government intimidation, censorship, economic hardship, ethnic and religious intolerance, violent extremism, and other threats to civil society and democracy remain.
With more than 60 years of surrogate broadcasting experience, these services have brought the liberating values of independent journalism to millions of listeners. RFE/RL offers its audiences the rich, immediate, and interactive content they seek, using the latest digital technologies – Internet, SMS text messaging, online video, satellite radio, and popular social media networks – and trusted broadcast radio to reach people in some of the most closed societies on earth.
RFE/RL serves audiences in lands where independent journalists often face profound risks. In 2013, authorities in Tajikistan, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine intensified their efforts to intimidate independent media, and non-state actors in Afghanistan and Pakistan threatened reprisals against RFE/RL journalists for their coverage.
RFE/RL is funded through, and operates under, a grant agreement with the BBG. Headquartered in Prague with 19 bureaus across its broadcast region, including in Moscow, Kabul, and Islamabad, RFE/RL’s proximity to its audiences facilitates production of unique, relevant, locally-oriented programming in a cost-effective manner.
- Budget: $92.1 million in FY2013
- Employees: 487
- Languages: 28
- Mobile Apps: available in 24 versions on Apple iOS and Android
Through its coverage of the interlocked controversies over the “Magnitsky List,” child adoptions to the U.S., anti-NGO and anti-gay crackdowns and the legal case against anti-corruption activist and Moscow mayoral candidate Aleksei Navalny, the Russian Service helped its audience understand these events in the context of their own lives. The Service was one of two media organizations given access in July to a new music video by the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot, and accompanied the group as it recorded the video at a Moscow gas station.
The Ukrainian Service helped its audience prepare for the anticipated signing of an EU Association Agreement with a series of reports examining the positives and negatives of the deal to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union. The Service covered live the November 28-29 Vilnius Summit, where the Ukrainian government turned away from the agreement, and provided live coverage of the massive Euromaidan protests with streaming video that was viewed more than 25 million times and comprehensive reporting cited by major media worldwide.
In a year when Iranians elected a new president, Radio Farda provided complete coverage of the campaign and vote while reminding audiences of the lives lost after the disputed previous election with its award-winning radio series “The Victims of 88,” and bidding farewell to former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad with a radio series “Thirty Controversies of a President.” Radio Farda provided breaking news coverage of the agreement reached in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear program. Radio Farda’s online community is expanding rapidly, adding 3,000 new fans per day to its main Facebook page, for an overall Facebook fan base of one million. A Facebook link to its audio stream has been “recommended” by users over 3,600,000 times.
The Tajik and Uzbek Services reported extensively on a police crackdown on economic migrants to Russia that played a role in the Moscow mayoral campaign, while the Turkmen and Uzbek Services provided in-the-field coverage of the cotton harvest, where residents of all ages are forced into, and sometimes die while, picking the economically vital cotton crop.
The Uzbek Service’s trailblazing efforts with Internet mobile delivery and social media have given it one of RFE/RL’s largest audiences on the web, and valuable reporting tools as well. The Service broke stories about government corruption involving family members of President Islam Karimov, and its use of the WhatsApp service allowed it to discover and report on the apparent rape of a gay Uzbek man in Russia by Uzbek vigilantes.
The Turkmen Service is the only international medium airing original multi-media reporting from inside Turkmenistan–despite the fact that it is not allowed to have a bureau or accredited journalists within the country. Audiences for the Turkmen Service’s web products have grown by a factor of seven in the past year. The Service’s coverage of homelessness, housing conditions, and travel restrictions on Turkmen citizens has prompted government action to improve facilities and social services, while its reporting on human rights cases has helped bring about the release of activists and journalists from prison.
According to a local research center, 60 percent of the news in local media is sourced to RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, which serves as the country’s primary source of news and information. The Association of Internet Providers in Tajikistan ranked Radio Ozodi among the five most-read websites in Tajikistan in 2013, while the Civil Initiative and Internet Policy Organization, an NGO, also ranked ozodi.org among the country’s top five websites in 2013 and 2012.
The Kyrgyz Service’s two TV shows reach a quarter of the population every week, with such stories as an investigation into efforts by the Tablighi Jamaat movement to recruit young Kyrgyz by offering them a free Islamic education in Bangladesh, and reporting on corruption and cronyism within the country’s political elite.
The Armenian Service broke new ground in the use of web-based technologies to reach its audience, bringing live Internet video coverage of presidential campaign rallies, election night controversies and post-election turmoil, and other major events including the country’s annual commemoration of Genocide Remembrance Day was picked up by numerous local TV stations and popular news sites.
The Azerbaijani Service built on its reputation as Azerbaijan’s leading independent media, providing exclusive live coverage of violent protests in Baku and Ismayilli, government corruption, and the destruction of historical sites, and comprehensive coverage of the October presidential election and reports of election fraud, carousel voting, and other irregularities.
The Balkan Service’s regional approach to news coverage paid dividends as it sent a Serbian-speaking Kosovar to cover the first meeting between leaders of Serbia and Kosovo in February, reinforcing the message of post-war reconciliation. Many listeners contacted the Service after it reported on a retired Serbian who, for the past 10 years, has led groups of cyclists on a 470-kilometer ride for reconciliation from Serbia to Bosnia. They told the Balkan Service that the report helped them understand they can each do more to “rebuild the destroyed bridge of friendship” between the peoples of the former Yugoslavia than could their political leaders.
Correspondent Janyl Chytyrbaeva received a “Highly Commended” award in the category of “Best Investigative Radio Documentary” from the Association for International Broadcasting for her report on women who had been victims of rape during the ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan in June 2010.
RFE/RL journalist Janarbek Akaev was voted Kyrgyzstan’s best TV presenter for the second year running, in a competition sponsored by Kyrgyzstan’s most popular newspaper.