US Svoboda Radio Station (Freedom) will begin broadcasting its programs in Abkhazia and South Ossetia on November 2. The station is targeting the two countries, which Russia officially recognized as independent states after the armed conflict with Georgia in August 2008.
The station will attract correspondents from the whole Caucasian region, including Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Georgia and Russia. What does the radio station, which is known for its anti-Russian views, intend to achieve?
The directors of the radio station said that its programs in Abkhazia and South Ossetia would be made to build bridges between different viewpoints and sides in the region.
It was also said that Andrey Babitsky, a journalist with Svoboda, will be in charge of the Abkhazian and South Ossetian direction of broadcast. Mr. Babitsky earned ill reputation in Russia for his notorious and biased reports which he made during the Chechen war, in which he was trying to protect terrorists and justify their actions.
There is another, a more important issue, though. How is the station going to convince the residents of the two states that their programs would meet their interests if the US administration does not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia?
The history of Radio Svoboda seems to be curious at this point. It started on the day of Stalin’s death – March 5, 1953. The station was originally called “Liberation.” It was renamed to “Svoboda” in 1959. Russian anti-communist emigrants were the first to start working at the station. There were many sections in the editorial staff of the station that were working with all republics of the Soviet Union. All the programs were against the communist regime. Undermining the state structure of the USSR was the main goal that the station was pursuing in its work. Many of its programs were blocked, but they could reach several regions of the Soviet Union anyway.
The US Congress was providing both the financial and the administrative support to Radio Svoboda; the CIA was in charge of the funding.
Georgia failed in its attempt to retrieve the territories of the two republics, but someone, as it seems, decided to choose a different path to go. They decided to create a special informational environment to reach the local population in a hope that some people would be inspired with ideas of the American and Georgian “democracies.”