RFE/RL programming aired despite crackdown

New York, May 14, 2004—Two months after U.S. government–funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) broadcasts were pulled off the air in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, a radio station in central Ukraine has begun carrying news from RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service.

Radio Takt, an independent station based in the city of Vinnitsya, began broadcasting RFE/RL programming on its 103.7 FM frequency on May 7, according to local press reports.

Takt is the first FM radio station in the country to air RFE/RL programming since the government of President Leonid Kuchma and his allies began cracking down in February on outlets that carry RFE/RL news.

In February, the Kyiv-based radio station Dovira discontinued RFE/RL programming only one month after a Kuchma ally was appointed as the station’s general producer. On February 27, the independent Kyiv radio station Kontinent added a daily two-hour rebroadcast of RFE/RL programming but was raided by police and taken off the air several days later.

The crackdown was designed to consolidate Kuchma’s control over the airwaves ahead of October presidential elections. (See CPJ protest letter from March 11: http://www.cpj.org/protests/04ltrs/Ukraine11mar04pl.html.)

Oleksandr Narodetsky, director of RFE/RL’s Ukraine Service in Prague, told CPJ that Takt’s powerful transmitter allows the station to be heard across much of the country, in the Cherkassy, Khmelnitsky, Odessa, Vinnitsya, and Zhitomir regions. Narodetsky also said that two other stations in Lviv and Odessa broadcast RFE/RL programming on FM frequencies.

Although RFE/RL programming can be heard outside the capital, Narodetsky says that no FM broadcasters in Kyiv are willing to carry RFE/RL news because they have received threats that their licenses will be revoked if they broadcast the material.