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Romanian President Pays Tribute to Radio Free Europe

(Prague, Czech Republic--December 18, 2006) Romanian President Traian Basescu, in a major speech to the Romanian parliament today, paid official tribute to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for keeping Romanians informed about developments in their country and in the world during the days of communism.

Basescu said, "Radio Free Europe... was the spoken newspaper of all Romanians. I pay homage to former Romanian Service directors Ghita Ionescu, Mihai Cismarescu, Noel Bernard and Vlad Georgescu -- men who fought selflessly and passionately for the truth, to uncover it, tell it and make it known." Basescu also named former broadcasters Monika Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca, saying, "they awakened the Romanian people with their unforgettable programs and through Radio Free Europe became the moral conscience of all Romanians."

He made the statement in an address to a special session of both chambers of the Romanian parliament, convened to adopt the report of a presidential commission on the communist dictatorship in Romania. The commission, led by University of Maryland professor Vladimir Tismaneanu, spent more than a year compiling the report, which condemns the communist regime as "criminal and illegitimate." It is the first official condemnation of 44 years of communism in Romania, which lasted until 1989. Former Polish president Lech Walesa and Romania's King Michael attended the parliamentary session.

Ghita Ionescu, who was named in Basescu's speech, was the first director of RFE broadcasting to Romania when it began in May, 1951. The other named broadcast directors -- Mihai Cismarescu, Noel Bernard and Vlad Georgescu -- led the service in the 1970s and 1980s, and all died of brain cancer in succession. Allegations have surfaced that all three were targeted by Romanian communist agents.

Today, RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service broadcasts one and one half hours of programming a day Monday through Friday to Moldova and Romania, produced in Prague and in the service's Chisinau bureau and transmitted to listeners via satellite and shortwave signals and UKV, FM and cable ("tochka") frequencies provided by local affiliate stations. Romania-Moldova Service programming is also available via the Internet, at the service's website and at; English-language news about events in Romania can be found on the RFE/RL website.