(PRAGUE, Czech Republic)
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) began a new chapter in its long and distinguished history today when Radio Free Iraq broadcast its first program from RFE/RL's recently completed Prague headquarters.
The six-minute news bulletin at 18:00 Baghdad time was part of RFE/RL's 17 hours of daily programming to Iraq. Many of today's stories focused on the aftermath of Saturday's elections and what they might mean for Iraq's future. [Read a commentary by RFE/RL's Abbas Djavadi, "Iraq is More Democratic than Iran"]
The broadcast was the first step in relocating all of RFE/RL's more than 500 Prague-based employees to the facility in Hagibor, ten minutes from the city center. The five-story, 236,000 sq/ft broadcast center features multimedia recording studios, interlinking offices, and a modern newsroom. It is also energy-efficient and one of the most secure buildings in Europe.
"Our new home is tailor-made to meet the needs of a 21st century media organization," said RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. "It allows us to stay ahead of the technological curve as we broadcast news and information to many places where authorities are hostile to free and independent media."
Steve Simmons of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees all U.S. international broadcasting including RFE/RL, credited a number of partners for the successful completion of the project. "We could not have done this without the crucial support of the Czech government, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. embassy in Prague," he said. "The BBG is delighted that RFE/RL employees, who broadcast in 28 languages to 20 countries via radio, TV, and the Internet, will now have a state-of-the-art headquarters to meet their needs."
The building was constructed by Paris-based Orco Property Group and designed by the architectural firm Cigler Marani. RFE/RL is leaving its home of 15 years, the former Czechoslovak communist parliament building, which is being turned over to the National Museum.