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VOA Engages Russian Audience Despite Challenges

Irina Van Dusen, Managing Editor, VOA Russian Service
Irina Van Dusen, Managing Editor, VOA Russian Service

Voice of America is engaging its audience in Russia, offering balanced reporting and a forum for ideas, despite media restrictions and pressure from the Russian government, according to the managing editor of VOA's Russian Service, Irina Van Dusen.

“Voice of America Russia offers a valuable platform for views in Russia, being the only resource for objective discussion on American thought on events relevant to Russian speakers in the region,” Van Dusen said.

Van Dusen, who spoke Wednesday in Washington at a panel discussion of the Central and East European Coalition, underscored the critical mission of the service and highlighted how it is fulfilling its obligations mandated by U.S. law.

“VOA Russia positions itself in the Russian media market as the medium where discussions take place unrestricted by political pressure and where issues, including U.S. foreign policy towards Russia, can be freely discussed from different points of view, unheard of on state-run media,” she said.

VOA Russia adopted an Internet-only strategy in 2008 because of pressure from the Russian government, which forced VOA’s radio and television affiliate stations in Russia to stop broadcasting VOA programs.

“We are carrying out this revised strategy through web-based discussion and dialogue and multimedia presentation of timely, trustworthy news, information and analysis of the U.S.-Russian relationship, and global events relevant to Russia,” she said.

The Russian Service’s audience has expanded rapidly as Russians continue to seek out reliable news and information and ways to freely share and express thoughts and ideas.

“It is in U.S. national interests for Voice of America to enhance Russian understanding of American policies, politics and culture, and views of Russia,” noted Van Dusen.

The service’s website traffic in 2011 almost doubled in comparison with 2010, while the number of YouTube views and followers on Twitter grew more than 300 percent.