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Volunteer radio offers war reports in Russian from tiny French village

Displaced journalists broadcast news on the war in Ukraine in Russian - ‘We have listeners in Russia, that is sure’ says Radio for Peace director

Sylvain Clament in radio studio

Sylvain Clament in the studio at Auros, Gironde – a village of fewer than 1,000 people Pic: Sylvain Clament

From a small village in southern France, a volunteer radio station is doing its bit to bring accurate information in Russian on the war in Ukraine to listeners in Russia.

Radio for Peace International was set up in 2019 to broadcast news about human rights and democracy, concentrating on conflict zones. 

It is run by volunteers and based in Auros, Gironde – a village of fewer than 1,000 people. 

News and investigative reports on Russia

When Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, the station’s director, Sylvain Clament, decided to act. 

“Within two weeks, using our past experience of reporting on conflict zones, we were able to launch 15-minute programmes, broadcast three times a week,” he told The Connexion. 

The three weekly programmes are all in Russian and presented by displaced journalists and researchers who have fled the region. 

One is an investigative broadcast about Russia, its systems and how the country functions, while another is more “classic news”, Mr Clament said, with updates about the war in Ukraine. 

Difficult to get accurate listener numbers

Mr Clament does not know how many people in Russia or the region listen to the station, but says that for him the number is unimportant. 

“We have listeners in Russia, that is sure. 

“But it is complicated to find out how many because we are broadcasting on waves that cover enormous distances. Also, in times of war it is difficult to get feedback.

“But what we offer is a new channel with free, factual information. 

“A lot of Russian journalists have told us that it is important. We do not need more than that.” 

Journalism is an integral part of democracy

Radio for Peace International was first launched in the US in 1985. 

The station ran for two decades but ended up facing financial difficulties and finally closed in 2008. 

Mr Clament said he wanted to “carry the torch” and so, in 2019, he contacted one of the station’s original founders, James Latham, to ask for the rights to the name. 

Mr Latham agreed and a new incarnation of the station was born, this time from a small French village. 

“I have always been very invested in issues that affect humans. Also, I love radio,” Mr Clament said, adding that the broadcasts are a way of “building for the future”. 

“We want to help journalists continue to work as much as we can,” he said.

“Journalism is an integral part of democracy. Not letting reporters from Russia disappear is a way of thinking about the future of the country and an eventual avenue towards democracy.”

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