At celebrations marking this month’s 60th anniversary of RFE’s first broadcasts to communist Czechoslovakia, key personalities from Czech and Slovak politics and culture praised RFE’s role in toppling communism in Central and Eastern Europe.
“RFE tore down the information barrier erected by the communist regime,” said Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas. “The truth and RFE will always stay in our consciousness.”
Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radicova recalled that RFE’s broadcasts “brought a small island of freedom to people’s homes.” She added that RFE’s journalistic professionalism would still be of value in post-Communist Europe today, as corruption issues threaten democracy in the region. RFE ended its Czech and Slovak broadcasts in 2004.
“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 former Czech President Vaclav Havel in a statement. “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.” RFE has been based in Prague since 1995, when it moved its headquarters there from Munich, Germany.
U.S. Ambassador to Prague Norman Eisen thanked RFE’s Czech hosts for their continued hospitality: “We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Czech people for their steadfast support of RFE’s critical mission.”
Today, 60 years after its inception, RFE reaches nearly 20 million people in 28 languages and 21 countries, including Russia, Belarus, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Says RFE’s Vice President John O’Sullivan: “We remain a lifeline for people living under authoritarian rule, or in war zones, or threatened by terrorism, who seek reliable news and a full range of opinion on disputed questions. Our task is, sadly, far from over.”
RFE is a private and independent international news organization whose programs — radio, Internet, and television — reach influential audiences in 21 countries, including Russia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the republics of Central Asia. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).