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Missouri broadcaster airing Russian state-sponsored content in defense of ‘free speech’

A broadcaster in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, airs Russian state-sponsored radio content in the name of free speech.

Peter Schartel began broadcasting Radio Sputnik, which is funded by the Russian government, in January 2020 and continued despite criticism amid the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, The Associated Press reports.

Schartel’s small, low-budget station receives payment from the Russian government to broadcast Radio Sputnik, and some say Schartel promotes propaganda for monetary gain.

Schartel says critics accuse him of being a traitor to his country, although those who call to complain generally haven’t listened to the broadcast.

“Some will talk to me, but others will always call me a piece of whatever,” Schartel said. “What I’m grateful for is that we still live in a country where they can call me. Even if they don’t think about free speech, they exercise that right.

The National Association of Broadcasters released a statement on March 1 urging broadcasters to exclude Radio Sputnik and other Russian-sponsored content from their programming.

“We believe our nation must stand fully united against misinformation and for freedom and democracy around the world,” NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt said in reference to the war in Ukraine. LeGeyt said the NAB is a “fierce defender” of free speech but refuses to tolerate Russian disinformation.