(PRAGUE, Czech Republic)
After nearly 60 years of providing uncensored news and information to the people of Romania, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Romanian-language service will cease broadcasting to Romania on August 1, 2008. However, Romanian-language broadcasts to Moldova and the Transdniester region will continue.
"During the course of nearly six decades, hundreds of RFE/RL journalists, researchers and analysts displayed extraordinary bravery, dedication and commitment to a free and independent press in Romania, often at great risk to themselves and their families" says RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin.” Their contributions to the collapse of communism and in helping to pave the way for a democratic Romania's entry into institutions such as NATO and the EU, will never be forgotten."
The Romanian Service began experimental broadcasting on July 14, 1950, and was fully operational by May 1, 1951. For years, its broadcasts were a thorn in the side of Romania's communist rulers who, according to a 2006 Romanian government report, may have been responsible for the deaths of three RFE/RL Romania service directors.
In a 2006 address to Parliament, Romanian President Traian Basescu paid homage to the RFE/RL journalists who, he said, "fought with altruism and passion for the knowledge and utterance of the truth…Their unforgettable [Radio] Free Europe broadcasts were the moral conscience of Romanians."The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is the independent U.S. government agency that oversees all U.S. international broadcasting including RFE/RL.
"RFE/RL's Romanian service has a distinguished history," said BBG Governor Jeffrey Hirschberg. "The reduction of broadcasts to Romania reflects the important progress made there and the urgent threats to freedom of the press and paucity of reliable information to be countered in other parts of the world."
Since Romania's accesion to the EU last year, media competition has increased dramatically and Romanians now have access to more than 70 daily newspapers, 300 private FM radio stations, cable TV and the Internet.
In 2005, Romanian filmmaker Alexandru Solomon released his documentary, Cold Waves
, a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the RFE/RL Romanian service's struggle against Communist Dictator Nicolai Ceausescu during the Cold War.
Solomon writes in the film's synopsis: "I grew up with it. Every evening, in an underground atmosphere, my father listened to Radio Free Europe as anyone else did. It meant more than information. While Ceausescu’s propaganda had less and less to do with reality, Free Europe’s Romanian section provided - apart from news – some hope."