Despite the Russian government’s attempted censorship of Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), there has been a surge in demand for their content, including their collaborative 24/7 Russian-language channel Current Time. In response, USAGM is expanding program delivery and access with the addition of more affiliate stations in and around Russia and the help of the Open Technology Fund’s tools and resources to circumvent internet censorship.
“It is clear that by restricting access to RFE/RL and VOA’s fact-based reporting, the Kremlin hopes to keep its own citizens in the dark and to hide the truth,” said Kelu Chao, USAGM’s Acting CEO. “The people of Russia deserve to know the facts about their government’s attacks on Ukraine and how the world is reacting. USAGM will continue to use its resources to bring unbiased information to light at this crucial time.”
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said, “RFE/RL journalists in Russia have been unfairly slurred as ‘foreign agents,’ detained, and now their accurate reporting about an unpopular war is being blocked. RFE/RL remains committed to delivering objective reporting from inside of Russia for the Russian people despite these outrageous attempts to censor the truth.” Read RFE/RL’s full press release at this link.
Acting VOA Director Yolanda López said, “The recent threat by the Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor to block VOA and other independent media outlets now is a reality for many in our audience there. Our viewers and listeners in Russia deserve access to our factual news content at this critical time, not only about the ongoing war in Ukraine, but also about all vital global events that impact their lives and actions. VOA will continue to promote and support tools and resources that will allow our audiences to bypass any blocking efforts imposed on our sites in Russia. Our journalists will continue their reporting, an example of free press in action.” Read VOA’s full press release at this link.
Some radio, digital, and direct-to-home satellite transmissions continue to reach Russian audiences, and demand for VOA and RFE/RL’s coverage is intensifying. For example, between February 24 and March 3, Current Time videos were viewed more than 240 million times across digital platforms. In addition, since Russia’s invasion, demand for Current Time content has increased dramatically among broadcast partners in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Estonia, and Bulgaria. With the increase over last week, there are 261 affiliates now distributing Current Time content. Between February 26 and March 5, Current Time videos have been viewed on Facebook 76 million times, while VOA’s Russian Service and RFE/RL’s Russian Service videos were each viewed about 8 million times.
From February 23 to March 2, VOA’s Russian Service reported nearly 17 million video views on social platforms, a 159% increase from the week before, while website traffic soared 146%. From February 23 to March 1, audiences viewed RFE/RL videos 436 million times on Facebook, 305 million times on YouTube, and 83 million times on Instagram – reflecting increases of 265%, 406%, and 185%, respectively, over the previous week.
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Contact Laurie Moy
Director, Office of Public Affairs