- RFE /RL ’s Radio Azadi continues to be Afghanistan’s most popular media outlet, reaching 62 percent of the adult population with a unique blend of call-in programs, news reporting and user-generated content. Nearly 500,000 Afghans receive Radio Azadi mobile phone news updates and send citizen journalism reports to the station via a free subscription-based SMS service. “Over the years, local media outlets routinely censored our news. But Radio Azadi always aired the news as it was. It has always been the best place to obtain objective facts.” – Dr. Zamai Zabuli, Chairman of the Complaints Committee of the Afghanistan Senate.
- In early 2012, RFE /RL ’s Radio Mashaal will mark two years of broadcasting in the tribal areas of Northwest Pakistan. With its extensive network of local reporters, it provided unique and comprehensive coverage of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011 and broke the news of a Pakistani terror group’s claim of responsibility for the December 2011 Ashura bombing.
- Correspondent Shaheen Buneri won a 2011 Persephone Miel Fellowship from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, with which he traveled to the Swat Valley to report on tensions there.
- Despite telephone and radio signal interference, website censorship, and threats against those contacting RFE /RL , millions of Iranians continued to turn to Radio Farda for news and information on Iran in 2011 by using BBG-sponsored Internet censorship circumvention tools.
- Banned from Azerbaijan’s FM airwaves, RFE /RL ’s Radio Azadliq embraced the Internet as a primary delivery platform where its award-winning satire show, “250 Seconds+” has become a hit. The service launched an unscripted show simulcast live on Facebook, the Service’s website, and Livestream TV that is fueled by audience interactions via Facebook and Twitter.
- Several RFE /RL journalists were harassed, detained and fined while trying to cover the “silent protests” against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s government in Belarus in June and July. During live coverage, RFE /RL ’s Belarusian Service website suffered a suspected distributed denial of service attack (“DD oS”) and later a malicious cloning of its YouTube page.
- In 2011, RFE /RL became one of the most popular non-profit channels on the entire YouTube site as many of the country’s TV outlets used its pioneering live streams and Internet video reports in their nightly newscasts The Yerevan Press Club recognized web editor Artur Papian with its coveted Annual Award for his contributions to digital media development in Armenia.
- The aggressive Internet strategy employed by RFE /RL ’s Radio Svoboda has increased its visibility by making use of new media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to foster citizen journalism and to promote civil society development. RFE /RL provided extensive coverage of the Khimki Forest demonstrations and innovative reporting on the legal woes of imprisoned former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Traffic to its website increased by 40% during the post-election protests in December 2011, as the station covered events with live-streamed video, photo galleries, and blogs.
- RFE /RL was among the first to reveal to the outside world the true dimensions of a massive explosion at a munitions plant in July that the Turkmen government tried to cover up. Two months later, RFE /RL ’s reporter Dovletmyrat Yazkuliyev was arrested and jailed on dubious charges. Following intense international pressure, Turkmen authorities pardoned him.
- Other initiatives included crowd-mapping election fraud in Kazakhstan, livetweeting the trial of two former state media employees in Uzbekistan, and extensively reporting on the case of two Tajik workers murdered in Russia. In Kyrgyzstan, RFE /RL reaches more than 30 percent of adults with a mixture of radio, Internet and television programs.
- 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.
- RFE’s newest service, Radio Mashaal, was launched in 2010 and broadcasts to Pakistan’s Pashtun heartland along the border with Afghanistan. Radio Mashaal has quickly become a trusted source of news in the region.
- RFE’s Afghan service Radio Azadi is one of the most popular media outlets in Afghanistan, with a market share of close to 50%. In 2010, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. launched an exhibit of some of the thousands of handwritten scrolls and letters sent to Radio Azadi by listeners.
- The website of RFE’s Persian-language service, Radio Farda, receives over 19 million page views every month – many of them via anti-filtering software – and also maintains one of the most popular Iranian Facebook pages.
- RFE/RL’s Radio Svoboda is the leading international broadcaster in Russia and a key alternative to state-controlled media. Radio Svoboda is attracting a growing audience on the radio and the web, with an average of 3.5 million visitors and nearly 8 million page views per month in FY2011.
- Awards: “Highly Commended” in the “Best Investigative Documentary” category (AIB Awards 2010, Radio Azadi, RFE’s Afghan Service) – “Silver Microphone” award recognizing achievements of women (February 2010, RFE’s Armenian Service) – Rafto Prize for human rights reporting (2009, RFE’s Azerbaijani Service) – Online News Association’s award for excellence in online journalism (2009, RFE’s Kazakh Service)
- Millions of Iranians voted in a hotly disputed presidential election in June. Post-election protests have grown into the most serious challenge to Iran’s theocratic rulers in the past 30 years. Despite the government’s intense efforts to jam broadcasts and block access to its website, RFE/RL’s Radio Farda was a vital source of up-to-the-minute, independent news for Iranians about the protests and government crackdown. Media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, and Sky News turned to RFE/RL’s Iran experts for insight into the protest movement.”
- Just days before Afghanistan’s August presidential election, RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan – the country’s most popular news source – hosted the first live presidential debate in Afghan history. The debate capped Radio Free Afghanistan’s unique and comprehensive reporting on the election campaign during which it organized roundtables and interviews with all 41 candidates.
- Despite a ban on local rebroadcasting, the Azerbaijani Service used its website and innovative marketing strategies to deliver hard-hitting news. Reporters in Baku obtained video clips of election fraud and reported on eyewitness accounts of fraud during the controversial March referendum that abolished presidential term limits. The service’s coverage earned it the 2009 Association for International Broadcasting (AIB) Media Excellence Award for “Best Radio Coverage of a Single News Event.”
- In Russia, RFE/RL continued to serve as a vital resource for audiences seeking news not shaped by the Kremlin. Throughout the year, RFE/RL’s Russian Service provided balanced news and analysis on the relations between President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and covered the epidemic of kidnappings and killings in Chechnya.
- In November, RFE/RL launched “Echo of the Caucasus,” a daily hour-long news program in Russian to the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It also features a Russian-language website with news, photos, audio, and video. In late 2009, RFE/RL prepared for the January 2010 launch of Pashto-language programming to Pakistan and the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The new station – called Radio Mashaal (Torch) offers an alternative to the growing number of Islamic extremist radio stations in the region.
- In February, RFE/RL aired its first program from a new, state-of-the-art broadcast headquarters in Prague. The five-story, 236,000 square-foot center features multimedia recording studios, interlinking offices, and a modern newsroom.
- The number of visits and page views on RFE/RL’s Internet websites nearly doubled in 2009, thanks to the full implementation of a new Web content management system that offers visitors more interactivity, more video and graphic content, and more user-generated content. RFE/RL also expanded into social networking, with Radio Farda’s Farsi-language fan page becoming one of Facebook’s most popular Iran-related pages.
- RFE’s journalists won over 20 regional and international journalism awards in 2010.
- Balkans Service journalist Omer Karabeg, once branded a “traitor” by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, was presented the prestigious Dr. Erhard Busek-SEEMO Award for Better Understanding in South East Europe.
- Two RFE reporters in Kazakhstan earned a major journalism prize from the Institute for War & Peace Reporting for their “outstanding coverage of the human rights issue in Central Asia.”
- The Association for International Broadcasting (AIB) recognized RFE journalists from Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Moldova for journalistic excellence.
- The updated website of RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service won an Online News Association (ONA) award in November for excellence in online journalism. Radio Free Afghanistan’s redesigned website had a 400 percent increase in page views, with most of its visits coming from the region – Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.
- In April, the Moldova Service used radio, video, and photos to cover the so-called “Twitter Revolution,” when thousands of young demonstrators clashed with police and ransacked government buildings to protest the Communist Party’s victory in national elections. Three Chisinau-based correspondents received the Eurasia Foundation’s Journalism Prize for providing the most “balanced” and “comprehensive” coverage of the elections.
- Azerbaijani Service reporter Malahat Nasibova received the Rafto Prize for her reporting on human rights violations and abuses of power in her native province of Nakhichevan.