PRAGUE, March 21 (AP) - Radio Free Europe, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's last stop Thursday on his two-day visit to the Czech Republic, has moved east from its Cold War location, but it is still broadcasting much the same message.
Overlooking historic Wenceslas Square, site of the 1989 anti-communist "velvet revolution," Christopher said Prague was the "absolutely ideal place" to continue the station's tradition.
RFE headquarters were relocated from Munich, Germany, in 1995 to the former Czechoslovak parliament building, site of stormy changes following the overthrow of communism.
Although its budget was slashed from dlrs 220 million to dlrs 75 million, the station is still considered a key way in which the West sends information to the newly independent East European countries.
The station has 18 bureaus across 11 time zones, with more than 200 freelancers and stringers reporting local news in 23 languages.
Kevin Klose president of RFE-RL, told Christopher that the stations try to have 70 percent of their content coming from the country to which they are broadcasting to give the sense of a domestic station.
"I commend you all for doing the work that remains very important to the development of democracy and free market," Christopher said.
Czech officials, including President Vaclav Havel, have spared no words of gratitude for the station's efforts and offered the building's premises for free.
RFE and the Voice of America were among the few radio stations that have in the past helped spread opposition views, paving the way for dissidents to gain political recognition.
"This station was very important to us in the past," Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec acompanying Christopher said, remembering the years of Communist censorship. "This is how we pay this debt back to Western democracies," he added.