Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty opens new offices in the Latvian capital of Riga and in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. The corporation announced this on March 17, a few days after Radio Liberty’s Moscow office was forced to shut down due to pressure from Russian authorities and a threat to the safety of journalists.
The new bureaus in the Baltic countries will employ journalists from the Russian Service of Radio Liberty, who previously worked in Moscow, as well as the editorial staff of the Present Time TV channel and journalists from the Belarusian Service of Radio Liberty, who were forced to leave Belarus after the authorities of this country began repressions against the opposition and independent media.
“The new bureaus will allow RFE/RL to continue reaching out to our audiences in Russia and Belarus, despite the best efforts of the authorities in these countries to silence the voice of independent journalism,” said Corporation President Jamie Fly, “The new bureaus will expand our successful efforts to reach audiences in Russia and Belarus, we will provide her with the critical information they expect from us and desperately need.” Fly thanked the authorities of Lithuania and Latvia for their support of freedom of speech and assistance to journalists who were forced to leave their countries.
RFE/RL will open a multimedia bureau in Riga, where journalists from the Russian Service and Current Time will work. A new subdivision of the corporation, which will deal with journalistic investigations, will also be located in Riga. The Vilnius bureau will be staffed by journalists from the Belarussian Service of Radio Liberty and participants in Current Time projects aimed at the Russian-speaking audience in Belarus.
On March 6, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty announced the closure of its bureau in Russia. On March 4, the Federal Tax Service applied to the Moscow Arbitration Court with a demand for the forced bankruptcy of RSE/RS LLC, which represents the interests of the media corporation in Russia; The pressure on journalists has increased significantly in recent years. These actions, according to the media corporation, represent the culmination of a years-long campaign to obstruct the work of Radio Liberty and other Russian-language projects of RFE/RL, whose office in Moscow was opened in 1991 at the invitation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
The technical reason for the bankruptcy of RSE/RS LLC was the refusal of the media corporation to pay the fines imposed by the Russian authorities for refusing to accompany each journalistic material with an indication that the media corporation was included in the list of “foreign agents”. The total amount of fines issued by Roskomnadzor since January 2021 has exceeded $13 million. 18 journalists collaborating with “RFE/RL” have been included by the Ministry of Justice of Russia in the list of “foreign media agents”.
In addition, websites of RFE/RL Russian-language projects, including the websites of Radio Liberty’s Russian Service, were blocked by Roskomnadzor for refusing to remove information about a Russian military incursion into a neighboring country.
Signed by Vladimir Putin on March 4, a law punishing allegedly “false information about the use of armed forces” provides for up to 15 years in prison for any journalist who questions the official interpretation of a military invasion on Ukrainian territory. Therefore, our journalists talk about these events from outside Russia.