Independent Belarusian broadcaster Euroradio continues to grow its online audience

Since the foundation of European Radio for Belarus (Euroradio) in 2006, its audience and popularity have never stopped increasing. Content broadcasted by Euroradio is extremely diverse: from regular reports on the aftermath of the 2010 Presidential elections and the State’s brutal crackdown, to special reports on how life is changing in the country, as illustrated by a correspondent’s reporting on what it is like to live on the State’s official “living wage” of just 113 USD per month (see link to story).

Euroradio’s stories were read 12 million times over 11 months (from January 2012 to December 2012). The total page-views and reads of Euroradio’s material amounted to 12.2 million. The number of unique visitors for Euroradio has reached an average of 146,000 per month. This traffic includes Belarusian visitors but also visitors from outside Belarus. With more than 4.6 million page views in 2012, Euroradio takes 55th place, up from 84th, in the overall rating of all websites used by Belarusians. These include Belarusian websites but also foreign websites.

Euroradio broadcasts 24/7 from studios based in Warsaw, Poland, reaching its audience via FM, Satellite and Internet. Euroradio also has an officially accredited bureau in Minsk and 9 accredited journalists based in Belarus. The contributors to the station are based in all Belarusian regions. The authorities however do not allow Euroradio (or any other independent media) to broadcast from within Belarus. IREX Europe has supported Euroradio’s work since 2006, including support from the European Union since 2008.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Belarus seem like a distant and unattainable idea for most Belarusians. Having a media sector which is free from any government control, independent and unbiased is essential to any democracy. Freedom of expression is equally as important. In this sense, the Euroradio project is of the highest importance for Belarus. By broadcasting free and independent news to Belarus from outside the country, Euroradio is enabling Belarusians to inform themselves freely on their country and the rest of the world.

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Belarusian project coordinator for Euroradio reflects on the future of Euroradio and its impact on Belarusian society as a whole:

IREX Europe: ‘What do you think the Euroradio project has brought to Belarus and its citizens? In other words, what has the project concretely achieved in your opinion?’

Euroradio Project Coordinator: ‘I think that several effects are visible. Firstly, there is a better level of informed citizens who are more aware of what is going on in Belarus but also outside of Belarus, mainly thanks to programs like Forum Belarus and Eurozoom. We had over 100 experts talking about current issues in these programs in the last two years. The issues raised were then re-used by other media outlets and disseminated around the web, which has allowed us to touch a larger audience. Secondly, the project has managed to strengthen ties with local, regional, national and external media. Training journalists in multi-media and journalism in general has allowed us to have real, in-depth journalism with journalists asking real questions. The quality of media has definitely improved.’

IREX Europe: ‘What are your feelings on how this project has developed? What were the main problems you encountered?’

Euroradio Project Coordinator: ‘For the project that we had together with IREX Europe in 2011-2012, problems were mainly political. We had problems with getting visas for trainers to come into Belarus and encountered similar problems with Belarusians travelling outside of the country and heading for example to the EU. In this case, we encountered numerous bureaucratic difficulties. On the whole, Euroradio as such is still not authorized to broadcast in Belarus. This still remains an objective of Euroradio: to broadcast in Belarus. Other problems encountered on a daily basis were for example having our equipment confiscated in 2009 and 2010 and correspondents being harassed as recently as last year. This makes working difficult. But we also have a privileged situation as we have access to officials for comments and information, which would be difficult for a non-accredited external broadcaster.’

IREX Europe: ‘What has working on this project brought to you personally?’

Euroradio Project Coordinator: ‘I had previous experience of managing projects for civil society and I had also worked as an editor in a newspaper. Working for Euroradio has allowed me to combine these two experiences: developing a not for profit project in the media sector. It has also been a great opportunity to educate myself on the world and exchange experience with people from all around the world. I particularly like the fact that with Euroradio, we are doing something new and useful.’

IREX Europe: ‘What are Euroradio’s plans for the future?’

Euroradio Project Coordinator: ‘We won’t be any different from any main-stream media in Belarus and in the rest of the world. We plan to develop the internet aspect of the project, as this is the best way to communicate with young people. For example, we are thinking about video streaming from the radio studio so that people can watch us online. Generally, we want to develop our relationships with other media and share our experiences. We hope to create a network with other Belarusian media and are basically open to any other opportunities to reach out to our potential audience and make sure that they have access to our programs.’

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