(Prague/Washington--June 6, 2003) U.S. international broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is marking the fiftieth anniversary of broadcasts to the countries of the former Soviet Union this week with a series of events including a major conference today in Prague, Czech Republic. The conference, "On Liberty," took place at RFE/RL's Broadcast Operations Center.
The conference reviewed various aspects of liberty in the world today, including discussions of the relationship between liberty and human rights, sovereignty, religion and education, civil society development, and the media and Internet. Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda gave the keynote speech at the conference. Conference speakers included former Russian parliament chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, Ukrainian parliament deputy Mustafa Cemilev and longtime Russian human rights champion Ludmilla Alekseeva. Audio and video of the conference will be available on RFE/RL's website, at http://www.rferl.org/specials/50radioliberty/
Other events planned for the celebration include an exhibit of the "Faces of Liberty" -- portraits of the most famous voices heard during the last fifty years of Radio Liberty Russian Service broadcasts, and an exhibition of books written by RFE/RL authors. RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine also hosted a reception in Prague for current and former employees of Radio Liberty.
"Radio Liberation" broadcasts in Russian, Tajik and Turkmen began on March 1, 1953. These programs were joined within days by broadcasts in Armenian, Azeri, Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek, and programs in Tatar-Bashkir, Belarusian and Ukrainian debuted several months later. Built on the surrogate broadcasting model of Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty (as the broadcasts were renamed in 1959) worked not only to inform its audience but also to convince listeners to use the information they received from Radio Liberty to decide for themselves how best to struggle against communist dictatorship, no matter how bleak the prospects seemed for change. Radio Liberty programming was subject to severe and constant jamming by the Soviet government from its first broadcast until the jamming was stopped on order of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in late November 1988. Radio Liberty merged with Radio Free Europe in 1975, to create the current corporate structure of RFE/RL.