Reporters Without Borders launches Svoboda satellite to counter Russian propaganda

Voice of America Or Radio Free Europe broadcast from the West to the USSR during the Cold War. From now on, we will have to familiarize ourselves with Svoboda, “freedom” in Russian.. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) officially launched the Svoboda satellite bouquet on Tuesday March 5 at the European Parliament, which brings together around ten independent Russian-speaking channels and radio stations. These broadcast from Europe using one of Eutelsat’s telecommunications satellites to Russia, Belarus or even territories in Ukraine occupied by the Russian army.

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“We must reverse the logic of propaganda and offer a Russian-speaking audience access to television and radio channels where independent, serious, fact-based journalism prevails”explains Christophe Deloire, secretary general of RSF, who came to present this “pioneering initiative for the right to information” in Russia.

“Access to independent and diversified sources of information is fundamental for the functioning of democratic societies”, recalls Vera Jourova, the vice-president of the Commission responsible for the rule of law. Brussels supports the project, without however committing the European budget to the initiative. “The Svoboda satellite bouquet joins the European Commission’s commitment to media pluralism and freedom of information”underlines Mme Jourova.

Anti-jamming technology

The genesis of this initiative dates back to March 2022, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when Jim Phillipoff, head of a Ukrainian media outlet, published an article demanding that Eutelsat replace the Russian satellite bouquets of NTV and Trikolor, which relay Kremlin propaganda, by independent Russian-speaking channels.

The project was quickly spotted and supported by André Lange, co-founder of the Diderot committee – a collective of researchers, lawyers and journalists – who campaigned for Eutelsat to stop broadcasting Russian bouquets. “Two years later, here we are”rejoices Mr. Lange. “We are continuing the work of Radio Free Europe from the Cold War”adds Jim Phillipoff, who has been leading the development of Svoboda since January.

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The choice of satellite, although expensive, was quickly made, because it is increasingly difficult to use the Internet to broadcast in Russia, which filters and censors all content. In addition, the use of a Eutelsat satellite equipped with anti-jamming technology appeared to be the best solution to reach a Russian audience.

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