Broadcasting Board of Governors Honors the Late Vaclav Havel

Washington, DC, December 19, 2011 — The Broadcasting Board of Governors honored the life of the playwright, activist and former Czech President Vaclav Havel with the following statement.

“Vaclav Havel was a pivotal force for freedom for his people as well as for others who lacked liberty,” said Walter Isaacson, speaking on behalf of the entire Broadcasting Board of Governors. “We have lost a great champion for justice as well as a talented intellect and artist who channeled his gifts for the good of many.”

Havel was a frequent contributor to and ardent supporter of U.S. international broadcasting. “Like the citizens of Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia,” he commented in the New York Times in May 2009, “I know what it is like to live in a country where the state controls public discourse, suppresses opposition and severely curtails freedom of expression.”

As President of the Czech Republic in 1994, Havel was instrumental in offering to house Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) broadcast operations in the former Czechoslovak Federal Parliament building in Prague for the symbolic rent of one Czech crown a day.  In the wake of a decision by the U.S. government to cut RFE/RL’s budget by two thirds, Havel’s offer helped make possible the organization’s survival in the post-Cold War era.

“It was with great satisfaction that we could welcome RFE in Prague after the fall of the Iron Curtain and thus start to repay our debt for its credible work,” said Havel in a statement in May 2011 on the 60th anniversary of RFE’s Czech and Slovak language broadcasts. “I hope that RFE continues to pursue its mission in today’s postmodern and politically unstable world: defense of human rights, civic rights and human dignity.”

Havel championed the freedom of the press and its important role in a democracy. On a visit to the Voice of America in February 1990, Havel, left with then VOA Director Richard Carlson, observed “You (VOA) have informed us truthfully of events around the world and in our country as well, and in this way you helped to bring about the peaceful revolution which had at long last taken place.”

RFE/RL and VOA are providing extensive coverage on the life and influence of Vaclav Havel. To read more visit RFE/RL at www.rferl.org or visit VOA at http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Vaclav-Havel-Dies-at-Age-75—135820668.html

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