After suspending its operations in Russia in early 2022, following the start of that country’s invasion of Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has officially opened new offices in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Rīga, Latvia.
As first announced in March 2022, these new offices are part of a comprehensive strategy to counter disinformation and reach new audiences in Belarus and Russia. It will also allow RFE/RL to produce more Russian-language content for the Baltic nations and beyond.
“I am honored that RFE/RL journalists have been welcomed in Rīga and Vilnius by the Latvian and Lithuanian governments and local communities,” stated RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly. “Having served Latvian and Lithuanian audiences during difficult periods in their histories, we are excited to be able to return now to work together to provide new generations who are still denied freedom with access to unbiased reporting.”
These new offices mark RFE/RL’s physical return to Rīga and Vilnius, where the services maintained bureaux from 1992 to 2004.
At the Vilnius launch on Jan. 10, Fly was joined by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, Speaker of the Parliament Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, exiled Belarusian leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Robert S. Gilchrist, former RFE/RL president and member of the RFE/RL Board of Directors Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin, and other esteemed guests.
The Vilnius facility hosts journalists exiled from Belarus following the disputed 2020 presidential elections there. At the time the RFE/RL Minsk bureau was raided and sealed, and the Belarus Service’s websites were blocked in July 2021.
In December 2021, RFE/RL was designated an “extremist organization,” a label that criminalized both the reporting and consumption of RFE/RL content. Two Belarus Service journalists — Ihar Losik and Andrey Kuznechyk — remain imprisoned by the Lukashenka regime.
For the Jan. 12 launch event in Rīga, Fly was joined by Latvian President Egils Levits, Latvian Minister of Culture Nauris Puntulis, U.S. Ambassador to Latvia John Carwile, members of Parliament, and media and civil society partners.
The Rīga office will be one of RFE/RL’s largest reporting hubs, with state-of-the-art facilities. It will host journalists from Current Time TV — a 24/7 Russian-language news platform — along with the REF/RL Russian Service staff forced out of Russia in March 2022. Additional new staff will be hired in Latvia, too.
The office will produce a wide range of Russian-language content, including investigative journalism and non-news programming for RFE/RL’s soon-to-be-launched streaming platform Votvot. A new daily news program covering the Baltic states, focusing on the political and economic reality of the three EU members and their citizens, is also planned.
A Digital Innovation Lab will also be established in Rīga to develop new reporting tools, storytelling formats, and distribution processes that are replicable across RFE/RL and the broader media community. In partnership with the Open Technology Fund, the Digital Innovation Lab will examine new ways to respond to Russian censorship and disinformation across RFE/RL’s markets.
Funded through the U.S. Agency for Global Media, RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company working with a network of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people every week in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted or where a professional press has not fully developed.