(Washington, DC--September 30, 2002) In a statement released today, RFE/RL President Thomas Dine said that, after 51 years of "devotion in promoting freedom and democracy," the end of broadcasting by the organization's Czech Service, Radio Svobodna Evropa (RSE), is a "sad event." But he added that "looking back, RFE/RL takes great pride and pleasure in the enormous effort of this service in disseminating truthful news and information to the Czech and Slovak peoples" and to the "great impact" produced by the broadcasts "over the course of half a century."
Radio Free Europe's "voice of a free Czechoslovakia" first went on the air on May 1, 1951, as the newly-created US surrogate broadcaster's first official transmission. Since that time, the Czech Service (prior to 1993, the Czechoslovak Service) has kept the Czech people informed about all of the major news stories affecting them--the "Prague Spring" liberalization movement of 1968 and subsequent Soviet-led invasion, the rise of Charter 77, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Velvet Revolution that brought the communist era to a close in Czechoslovakia and the peaceful breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993. In 1981, a bomb blast at RFE/RL's Cold War-era headquarters in Munich, targeting the Czechoslovak Service, severely wounded three broadcasters. In 1995, after RFE/RL moved from Munich to the former Czechoslovak federal parliament building in the center of Prague, the Czech Service became a joint venture with Czech Public Radio.
Dine said the end of the Czech broadcasts came due to budgetary constraints and that while there is still a need for the broadcasts in the Czech Republic, "we are now needed more urgently elsewhere." Dine's statement ends with a quote from a reader of the Czech daily "Mlada fronta Dnes", who wrote on 27 September that "RSE has every right to [pass into history] with its head high, because it fulfilled its mission flawlessly."