Russia Ends VOA Radio Broadcasts

Posted April 11th, 2014 at 1:45 pm (UTC+0)

VOA Russia

In one more example of escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Russia has cut off all programming by the Voice of America, a move which the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the organization that oversees VOA, has strongly condemned.

The decision was delivered in a curt, one-sentence letter from Dmitry Kiselyov, who heads the Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) Information Agency, responding from the BBG’s request to renew its long-standing contract to broadcast in Russia.

Dmitry Kiselyov,  the head of media conglomerate Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) smiles as he attends a joint session of Russian parliament on Crimea's incorporation into Russia at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18, 2014.  AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV

Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of media conglomerate Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) smiles as he attends a joint session of Russian parliament on Crimea’s incorporation into Russia at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18, 2014. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV

“We are not going to cooperate,” the letter read.

This means that the last VOA programming, which includes news and English-language lessons–has stopped airing on local Moscow frequency 810 AM.

“Moscow has chosen to do the wrong thing and restrict free speech,” said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell. “This is a fundamental value shared by many countries around the world.”

Shell pointed out that Russian programming, including Russia Today television, continues to air in the United States.

“We urge Mr. Kiselev and other Russian authorities to open Russian airwaves to more of our programs and those of other international broadcasters,” Shell added. “We’re asking for an even playing field.”

According to RT, Kiselyov says his decision doesn’t have “anything to do with the freedom of speech” but that neither the VOA nor Radio Svoboda (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian service) “have nothing original to say.”

“They sound like they are broadcasting from another world, at least from a world that doesn’t exist anymore” Kiselyov said. “I regard these radio stations as mere spam on our frequencies.”

Kiselyov’s letter to the BBG was dated March 21–which, coincidentally, was the same day that the EU froze his assets and banned his travel.  The EU called him a “central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine,” according to a list published today in Brussels.

This is the same gentleman who, on his recent television show, boasted that Russia has the capability to turn the US into “radioactive ashes.”

Russia’s decision does not mean that Russians won’t have access to the VOA.  We are still available on our websiteFacebook and Twitter, as well as via satellite.


Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

16 responses to “Russia Ends VOA Radio Broadcasts”

  1. William says:

    I hope were not seeing the re-emergence of the old Soviet Union. Old habits are hard to die, even after over 20 years. With comments like Kiselyov made, that’s the Soviet Union talking.

  2. Alfredo says:

    Well, in fact so why not to close RT en US.

    • Doug F. says:

      We don’t close Russia Today because we actual believe in free speech. We allow others to talk, even if we disagree with them. That’s the way we do things. We believe that things work best that way.

      • Alfredo says:

        Good point,

        From my point of view the rule of free speech is only for countries that play the same game.

        Is impossible to play ping pong with basketball rules or vice versa.

        The outside enemies as Russia and internal enemies to use our rules as weapons.

        The communism try to return through another format, and we need to understand that.

  3. krisp says:

    In my opinion airing Russia Today should be stopped right away. The station is nothing more than a cheap Soviet propaganda which is aimed at bombarding the Western civilization with sick pro-Putin tricks. I frankly don’t understand how a proud American nation can agree to be treated as useful idiots.

    • Cecily Hilleary Cecily Hilleary says:

      Krisp and Alfredo: Your comments are similar and very interesting. If the U.S. were to censor RT in the U.S., that would simply be the kind of censorship in which Russia is engaging now. The entire point of a free press in the United States is to allow ALL voices, including dissenting voices. In a democracy, we NEED to hear ALL voices–citizens are smart enough to make up their own minds.

      • AlfredoG says:

        Hitler to use the democracy to kill the democracy in Germany, the same way Russian try out to destroy us with free speech, They use our rules against us.

        I accept isn’t good to enter to play the same game, but we must block any attempt for others to use our rules against US.

  4. Schuka Pike says:

    Cecily this is ridiculous. Americans and Russians are not even strong in their own countries geographies I am not even talking about some foreign countries or policies. So, you see they are not “smart enough to make up their own minds”. If you don’t believe me ask 100 Americans from the streets to show on the map where Ukraine’s Crimea region is located or ask 100 Russians from the streets to show where the smallest federal subject of Russia is located; to answer these questions both groups will need to do extensive googling on the internet. Why? because they are dumber than dirt and that is why they need biased information like any other brainless cattle needs a shepherd. The smart ones do not read or watch biased propaganda junk be it from RT or VOA.

    • Doug F. says:

      That’s an argument that many people have used against democracy: That ordinary people aren’t smart enough to make these decisions. Based upon over two hundred years of history in the U.S., having ordinary people make the decisions works better than having the experts make them. There’s nothing that prevents ordinary people from relying on experts in making decisions. Your argument also misses the point: By stopping Russia Today broadcast in the U.S., you are stopping all classes of people from hearing its viewpoint, even those who know Ukrainian geography in depth.

      • Cecily Hilleary Cecily Hilleary says:

        Just to clarify, the U.S. has NOT blocked RT and I’d be very surprised if we did. See:

      • Schuka Pike says:

        “That’s an argument that many people have used against democracy”. Doug F I know these are not your words, that’s a typical brainless retype of an idiot’s point of view who really believed that he made a smart comment. Start thinking and start googling, few examples:
        German Democratic Republic (a.k.a. East Germany)
        Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (a.k.a. North Korea)

        Now I can predict with 100% accuracy you will tell me that they are not “real” democracies. Then I will ask to show me the “real” democracy. You will say “the USA” and I will reply yeah that’s why the USA has “electoral college”. You will go back and google again what it really does and how the maps are redrawn to make the vote counts “correct”.

        Here I saved some time. Q&A.

  5. Lou says:

    Was AM810 a privatized outlet? If so, they are losing a revenue stream.
    Closing down VOA programming is a bad idea.
    Its always a good idea to hear what your opponents think and say, even if you don’t agree with them.

    • Cecily Hilleary Cecily Hilleary says:

      Lou, the revenue amounts to tens of thousands of dollars, but I don’t think that’s much of a consideration to Russia at the moment. I agree with your comment that ending VOA — or any other outside media outlet’s — transmissions in Russia is not a good move, no matter how one looks at it. I recently interviewed Sergei Khruschev, the son of the former Soviet premier, for another story, and we talked about censorship. This is what he told me about censorship during the Soviet era:

      Americans, when they watch something on TV or listen to the news, they usually believe the news. But in Russia, all the time there was censorship. They never believed what they heard on the official news, so they tried to find out what was the truth and why they were lying in the Soviet Union. So all the Soviet people listened to the so-called ‘enemy voices.’
      OF course they were effective. They were very effective because they presented to the Soviet people the different vision of events. And because it was impossible to verify what was the official Soviet propaganda and what was in the American propaganda, so it was the beginning of this swinging between these two opinions, what was right and what was wrong.”

  6. Lou says:

    Wait till AM810 starts carrying Brother Stair. They’ll be begging for VOA again!
    (If you’ve never heard of Brother Stair, he is a preacher/prophet and can be heard on about half a dozen SW frequencies at any time around the world.)

  7. WirelessIQ says:

    Reagan had the right strategy with the Russians. Beat them economically. Put our energy industry on a war-like footing and ramp up our LNG and petroleum exports to the EU to steal the business from Russia and cut off their income from the EU. The US and Canada have the resources and an all-out effort would likely mean we can accomplish it all at a profit which beats expending our blood and treasure. Energy exports are the key source of income for Russia and we could likely bring them to their knees in less than a decade.


About rePRESSEDed

VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary monitors the state of free expression and free speech around the world.



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