Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Throughout 2017, RFE/RL’s reporting helped audiences fight the onslaught of disinformation and fake news across its coverage region. At the same time, RFE/RL made significant strides in raising the standards of its video, digital and broadcast operations, reaching audiences on their preferred media platforms with compelling content that seeks to set the agenda and inform debate in our markets.
Most notably, RFE/RL’s Current Time digital and TV network marked steady growth and expanding demand since its formal launch on February 7, 2017 as a 24/7 Russian-language alternative to Kremlin-controlled media. Current Time captured audience attention with stories across TV and the internet, many of which focused on the impact of regional politics and policies on the everyday lives of ordinary people.
RFE/RL’s focus on improving video operations also led to stronger products across the company, making reporting more accessible and engaging for audiences. In 2017, RFE/RL created a regional reporting hub in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, with TV production facilities. Starting in December 2017, Current Time Asia, RFE/RL’s evening news show for Central Asia, has been broadcast live directly from its Bishkek bureau. These developments have made RFE/RL better able to engage and connect with TV audiences in Central Asia, and throughout the region.
RFE/RL’s language services offer a broad range of surrogate reporting that would otherwise not be available in its target markets. With 18 regional news bureaus across its operational region, RFE/RL in 2017 was able to capture evocative stories from Belarus to Tajikistan. RFE/RL’s continued emphasis on engaging audiences with its reporting on digital platforms has garnered great dividends, leading to more than a billion views of its videos across social networks in 2017.
The high number of external media outlets picking up or quoting RFE/RL original reporting underscored the value and quality of its journalistic work, with reporting regularly being used by CNN, the Washington Post, Reuters, BuzzFeed, and others. RFE/RL’s Central Asia Wire Service, which serves to provide an alternative to Russian disinformation as well as extremist propaganda in the region, also achieved strong results: RFE/RL content was published, broadcast, quoted or referenced at least 1,100 times a week by more than 270 regional media outlets across Central Asia.
During all of this, RFE/RL faced unprecedented threats to its reporting both from an organizational perspective and directed at individual journalists. In December, the Russian Federation declared nine websites administered by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, Current Time, Tatar-Bashkir Service, North Caucasus Language Service, and Ukrainian Service to be foreign agents. In January 2018, after a long buildup involving harassment of our reporters, Pakistan shut down Radio Mashaal’s news bureau in Islamabad, even as RFE/RL’s bureau in Baku, sealed by Azerbaijani authorities in December 2014, remains closed. In May 2017, a court in Azerbaijan ruled in favor of blocking the Azerbaijani Service’s website. And RFE/RL’s journalists were targeted in no fewer than 38 incidents in at least 12 of the countries they cover in 2017. Among the most serious cases:
- RFE/RL contributor Mykola Semena is serving a 2.5 year suspended sentence following a conviction on “separatism” charges in Russia-annexed Crimea,
- blogger Stanislav Aseyev is being held virtually incommunicado by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine,
- contributor Saparmamed Nepeskuliev is serving the last year of a three-year sentence in Turkmenistan, and
- Aziz Yusupov, the brother of an RFE/RL journalist based in Prague, is serving a five-year sentence in Uzbekistan.
RFE/RL is transparent about its mission to provide independent journalism that promotes democratic values and institutions and combats all forms of intolerance, as well as its status as a non-profit organization publicly funded by the U.S. government. RFE/RL remains editorially independent from any government, political party, opposition group, émigré organization, commercial or other special-interest organization, or religious body, whether inside or outside its coverage area. It respects and vigorously adheres to the laws that require its reporting to be professional, balanced and in line with the highest journalistic standards.