(Prague, Czech Republic--November 28, 2003) Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is preparing to cease broadcasting in seven languages to countries in Central and Southeastern Europe by the end of this year, RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine announced to staff today in Prague.
Language services broadcasting to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia will close December 31st, 2003, under a directive from the White House and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, RFE/RL's oversight body.
Dine said, "Over the last six years, RFE/RL has rapidly expanded its operations in Eurasia and Southwest Asia. It is now time to focus fully on these very troubled areas."
He said RFE/RL's first concern right now is to do what it can to help everyone affected by the closings. More than 100 positions at RFE/RL's Broadcasting Center in Prague and in its news bureaus in Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Bratislava, Bucharest, Sofia, and Zagreb will be cut. Dine said, "It is with deep regret that we have to say 'goodbye' to highly professional, highly dedicated, and highly effective colleagues whose programs are listened to by record audiences."
In February of this year, U.S. President George W. Bush proposed in his fiscal year 2004 budget to end broadcasting to countries that are preparing to join NATO and the EU. U.S. congressional appropriators, who vote on funding levels for U.S. international broadcasting, including RFE/RL, this week accepted the Administration and BBG position and did not provide additional monies for the seven language services.
Dine said, "Without additional funding, there is no other way than to close these services in view of priorities in other parts of the world." RFE/RL broadcasts more than 1,100 hours a week in 34 languages, of which 19 are to places where the majority populations are Muslim. In Europe, broadcasts are continuing to Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia, Macedonia, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine.