Despite the fact that the Cold War has ended 25 years ago, the need and practical use of propaganda still exists in the modern world.Such conclusion was made by me after the visit to Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe with Global Media Seminar class, in which I am currently enrolled. During our visit we were given a small talk by Sergei Danilochkin, the director of Radio Free Iraq, in which he outlined the mission of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, as well as its current goals.
Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, also known as RL/RFE has been established and historically known as a source of Western propaganda to the Central and Eastern European countries of the Soviet bloc, where the free flow of information was impossible due to the censorship, hence the outside source of information was necessary. After the Soviet Union fell and broke down into smaller independent political entities, the goal of RL/RFE as a source of Western propaganda has been accomplished. In order to survive, RL/RFE needed to change its objectives to continue functioning. According to Sergei Danilochkin, the current goal of RL/RFE is to provide “objective” information to the countries, where the flow of information is highly limited and the multisided view on various issues is very hard to observe. Such countries include Armenia, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, etc.
While the goal of RL/RFE of delivering the objective information to various parts of the world seems very noble and even valuable, given the fact that many sources of contemporary media are biased in one way or another on different levels, a number of factors makes it hard to believe that RL/RFE does not fall into the category of the above mentioned “biased media”.
The first factor that puts RL/RFE noble goal into somewhat doubtful situation is the fact that it is currently being funded by the United States Congress. While this fact does not give any direct answers to the questions regarding the objectivity of the RL/RFE, it does make it possible for any observer to make assumptions about whose interests RL/RFE might serve. Although it might not necessarily be true, it is safe to assume that those, who invest in activities of RL/RFE (e.g. U.S. Congress), would be highly disappointed and most likely withdraw the funding, if RL/RFE presented any information, which would directly put U.S. Congress into any kind of disadvantageous position. Looking at the activities of RL/RFE from this perspective, the whole objectivity of the information provided by the broadcaster becomes highly questionable. The fact that CIA initially funded RL/RFE for a long time does not help the situation either.
Another factor that creates doubts around the RL/RFE’s primary goal of delivering objective information and providing all sides of the story to the audience, which is constantly being a target of one-sided opinions of the local media, is the fact that RL/RFE is broadcasting only to the countries, which are, in a manner, in a state of opposition towards the Western politics and media. Broadcasting to such countries as Iran, Iraq and Russia are probably some of the best example. Although it is undeniable that the populations of these countries are being affected by the local propaganda of various levels of intensity, hence the multi-sidedness of opinions presented by the local media is very low, so is the situation in various countries of the Western world, including United States, where the population is being constantly provided with the information by the media, which serve the interests of the government. If the primary goal of RL/RFE is to provide the objective multi-sided information, it is surprising how the Western Europe is not a part of their audience. This, along with the fact that RL/RFE does not broadcast to such countries as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, where the freedom of speech is legally prohibited, but which happen to be political allies of the Western world, also brings up a lot of questions regarding whose interests RL/RFE really serves.
To conclude, the contemporary activity of RL/RFE, despite the claims, is not that different from the one, which existed before the fall of the Soviet Union. One can still observe various characteristics of the possible purpose of the broadcaster as a propaganda source, starting with the fact that RL/RFE is financially dependent on the government of the Western political and military super-power and ending with the specific target audience that RL/RFE chooses for their broadcasts, as well as the audience it does not broadcast to, hence putting under the question mark the real goals and purposes of the broadcaster.
To find out more about RL/RFE, please visit http://www.rferl.org/
A featured image taken by Flickr user Byzantine_K