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Reporters Without Borders launches Svoboda Satellite Package to broadcast independent journalism to Russian-speaking populations

On March 5, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) launched the Svoboda Satellite Package — an initiative aimed at broadcasting nine Russian-language TV and radio channels through Eutelsat's Hotbird satellite, making the package accessible to an estimated 4.5 million households in Russia and an additional 800 thousand in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.

As per RSF, the move “proves that democracies can export independent journalism, to reverse the logic of propaganda.”

The Svoboda Satellite Package was launched in Brussels at the European Parliament on March 5 as part of an event hosted by MEPAndrus Ansip, with participation from Vera Jourova, Vice-President of the European Commission, several figures from Russian civil society, and other European parliamentarians. Christophe Deloire, the Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), along with project director Jim Phillipoff, announced that the package is now available and unencrypted.

Named after the Russian word for “freedom,” the Svoboda Satellite Package aims to counteract disinformation and propaganda by delivering trustworthy news sources to regions and populations exposed to them. Viewers will not need to procure any additional equipment in order to access the channels.

The initial offering from the Svoboda Satellite Package includes a diverse lineup of content providers including Echo («Эхо»), Radio Sakharov, Current Time, Euroradio, TV8, Ost/West 24, and composite channels from public figures and organizations like Dimitry Gordon, Irina Shikhman, IStories, Holod Media, and Novaya Gazeta Europe, among others.

According to RSF, additional content providers will be added in the coming months along with a new composite channel dedicated to news. The package will consist of up to 25 independent Russian language radio and television channels.

Eutelsat, the operator of the Hotbird 13 satellites that now host the Svoboda package, broadcasted a slew of Russian propaganda channels until late 2022.

Following a lawsuit launched by RSF in November 2022, the French media regulator Arcom was ordered to reverse a previous ruling that had authorized Eutelsat to use its satellites to broadcast the Russian television channels Rossiya 1, Perviy Kanal (Channel One), and NTV.

The RSF complaint to the French Council of State argued that the three Russian-language channels broadcast TV programs that “violate human dignity” and “incite hatred and violence against certain populations and minorities.” These TV programs legitimized the “illegal intervention of the Russian army in Ukraine” while failing to offer a plurality of views, RSF added.

Christophe Deloire, the head of RSF, commented on the ruling, which was handed down on December 9, 2022:

“This decision is a victory for the right to reliable information and for the fight against the Kremlin's war propaganda.”

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