Irina Van Dusen, Managing Editor, VOA Russian Service
Irina Van Dusen, Managing Editor, VOA Russian Service

VOA, RFE/RL engage Russian audience despite challenges

Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty are continuing robust efforts to reach audiences in Russia, despite many challenges from the Russian government.

Jeff Trimble, deputy director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, and Irina Van Dusen, managing editor of the Voice of America Russian Service, took part in a Central and East European Coalition panel discussion Wednesday on Capitol Hill on the impact of Russian “soft” power.

“With global press freedom at a two-decade low, our value-added is to support freedom of press and freedom of expression, essential to fostering and sustaining free societies,” says Trimble. “Promoting the development of healthy, stable, democratic societies through credible, accurate journalism supports U.S. national interests.”

The International Broadcasting Bureau supports the day-to-day operations of Voice of America and provides transmission and technical support for all the international non-military broadcasting services funded by the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Voice of America Russian adopted an Internet-only strategy in 2008 when pressure from the Russian government forced VOA’s radio and television affiliate stations in Russia to stop broadcasting VOA programs.

“We are carrying out this revised strategy through web-based discussion and dialogue and multimedia presentation of timely, trustworthy news, information and analysis of the U.S.-Russian relationship, and global events relevant to Russia,” says Van Dusen.

“We are fulfilling our Charter-mandated obligations by acting as the only resource for objective discussion on American thought on events relevant to Russian speakers in the region,” she says.

The Russian Service’s audience has expanded rapidly because the service engages Russians and offers them a platform for views, including those not heard on state-controlled media.

The service’s website traffic in 2011 almost doubled in comparison with 2010, while the number of YouTube views and followers on Twitter grew more than 300 percent.