The 10th anniversary of RFE/RL’s Hagibor move.
The 10th anniversary of RFE/RL’s Hagibor move.
In 1995, at the invitation of writer, former dissident, and Czech President Vaclav Havel, RFE/RL moved its operations from Munich, Germany -- where we had been based since 1950 -- to Prague. Havel offered the former Czechoslovak Parliament building to RFE/RL: right in the center of Prague, at the top of Wenceslas Square.
Following the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001, it became clear that, as a U.S.-funded organization, RFE/RL could also be a potential terrorist target. Concrete barriers and armored personnel vehicles were placed in front of the headquarters in central Prague, and the National Security Council (BRS) of the Czech Republic advised the government to start talks with the Radios on moving the station to a safer location. The Czech Defense Ministry allegedly proposed five alternative buildings located well away from the city center. (Source: Radio Prague)
In July 2005, it was announced that RFE/RL had accepted an offer for a new building site at Hagibor in eastern Prague, about 3.5 km from the previous building. At the time, RFE/RL spokesperson Anna Rausova said that security aspects were not the only reasons for the move, stressing that the new, purpose-built facility would be much better suited to broadcast work and the use of modern media technology.
The groundbreaking ceremony for RFE/RL’s future broadcasting headquarters at Prague 10 – Hagibor took place on October 13, 2006, in the presence of Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Vondra, Prague Mayor Pavel Bem, and distinguished Czech and US government officials.
A special reception was held the same day in the old building in Wenceslas Square, where a huge celebratory cake, shaped like the future RFE/RL headquarters, was shared by participants.
January 2008 -- construction of the new RFE/RL headquarters is underway. (Video: RFE/RL archive)
Rawa Haidar, a broadcaster for RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq, aired the first broadcast from the new headquarters, at 4:00pm Prague time (8:00pm Baghdad time) on February 16, 2009. (In July 2015, the resources of Radio Free Iraq were merged with Radio Sawa Iraq to provide the audience with extensive Iraq-specific news and informational programming).
On March 27, 2009, Vaclav Havel presided over the first editorial meeting held in RFE/RL’s new building. President Havel encouraged the assembled journalists to uphold the high standards of truth and honest reporting that the Radios had exemplified through the Cold War and that offered hope to him and his fellow dissidents behind the Iron Curtain. Havel said: “Even after the collapse of communism, RFE/RL played a significant role because it set the professional bar for journalists in the new democracies, it was a role model for learning the basics of independent journalism.” (From left to right: Jeff Gedmin, RFE/RL President & CEO and Czech President Vaclav Havel)
In May 2009, the Russian Service was the final RFE/RL language service to relocate to the new headquarters building.
On May 12, 2009, RFE/RL formally opened its new headquarters in Hagibor with a ceremony that included Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Mayor Bem, and distinguished Czech, European and US government officials. "Without serious journalism, without a free press in print, broadcasting, or web form, no society can long remain free or just," said President Ilves, who had worked for RFE/RL for nearly a decade when it was based in Munich, including as head of the Estonian Service. (Video: RFE/RL archive)
RFE/RL’s original home in Prague, the Communist-era Czechoslovak Parliament building, underwent extensive renovations and is now part of the National Museum.
“The City of Prague is truly proud to host Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. For our fellow citizens it does not represent just another international news organization. It represents a very powerful symbol. It reminds us of the fact that freedom is rarely given, it is rather won through hard struggle. Once it is actually won, however, freedom should not be taken for granted. Instead, it needs to be nurtured all the time, and each generation must defend it over and over again. Our society managed to regain its freedom thirty years ago. Unfortunately, a number of other societies around the world still suffer from various sorts of oppression and injustice. For them just as well as for our fellow citizens before the year 1989, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty symbolizes a beacon of hope for a better future. Our own modern history teaches us that hope can change everything. Thank you very much for all your dedicated work. It is highly appreciated.” (April 3, 2019)