(Washington, D.C.--January 31, 2001) RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine announced in Riga today that the Latvian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will begin weekly 30 minute programs in the Russian language.
He said that the company had taken this step at the request of the Latvian government and in support of Riga's program to integrate all those living in that country. And he noted that it enjoyed the full backing of the Broadcasting Board of Governors which oversees all U.S. international broadcasting.
In a speech to the Latvian Transatlantic Association, Dine said that such programming will contribute to Latvian efforts to "bridge the divide" between Latvians and Russian-speaking residents by ensuring that both groups learn about each other from a common source.
Dine noted that because this step represents a departure from RFE/RL's "past language defined service structure, many have been concerned that this innovation somehow threatens our mission." Such feelings, Dine acknowledged, are sometimes found among RFE/RL's oldest and staunchest friends.
"But such concerns are misplaced," Dine continued. "Such broadcasting in the Russian language to Latvia represents not some kind of departure from our past efforts but rather fulfillment of our mission of helping to build the foundations for democracy and free markets through the free flow of information across entire societies."
The new programs, which will go on the air beginning this week, will be prepared and remain under the strict editorial control of the Latvian Service and its director Peter Zvagulis, Dine said. "That meet the needs of our Latvian partners in this enterprise," the RFE/RL head said.
"Moreover," Dine concluded, "it provides the best possible guarantee that Russian speakers in Latvia will now have the chance to listen to programming specifically tailored to their needs rather than to broadcasts directed at their co-nationals elsewhere."