(Prague, Czech Republic--May 21, 2002) Laura Bush, the First Lady of the United States, visited RFE/RL's Prague Broadcast Center today. During her visit, the First Lady recorded a personal message to the Afghan people for broadcast on RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan station and met with representatives of humanitarian organizations currently providing aid in Afghanistan.
In welcoming Mrs. Bush, RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine emphasized the work of Radio Free Afghanistan in promoting democratic values and institutions and in helping train local journalists. "Broadcasting as we do from this building, " Dine said, "we do not often directly see the results of our work... minds are being opened and lives are being changed."
In her comments, Mrs. Bush recognized the work of Prague-based aid organizations like the People in Need Foundation, Caritas Czech Catholic Charities and the Czech office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as well as RFE/RL, who are "delivering supplies, information and economic assistance to people who desperately need them. By doing so, you are delivering help and hope for a better life, one person at a time... Thanks to you, the people of Afghanistan are learning that the world's concern for them is also great. To the people of Afghanistan, you offer the outstretched hands of the world."
Accompanying Mrs. Bush during her visit to RFE/RL in Prague were U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Craig Stapleton, Afghan Ambassador to the Czech Republic Azizullah Karzai and White House Communications Director Karen Hughes. Briefing the First Lady were Katerina Stejskalova of Caritas, Lucie Sladkova of the IOM, Simon Panek and Tomas Pojar of the People in Need Foundation and Abbas Djavadi and Golnaz Esfandiari of RFE/RL.
RFE/RL launched its Dari and Pashto broadcasts on Jan. 30, 2002 and now broadcasts ten and one half hours daily. The FM broadcasts in Kabul are an integral part of a 24-hour program stream developed in cooperation with the Voice of America.
Coverage of Mrs. Bush's visit, including text and audio of her address to the Afghan people in Dari, Pashto and English, will be available on RFE/RL's website, at www.rferl.org