(PRAGUE, Czech Republic) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) formally opened its new headquarters in the Czech capital today with a ceremony that included the President of Estonia, the Mayor of Prague, and distinguished Czech, European and US government officials.
"Without serious journalism, without a free press in print, broadcast, or web form, no society can long remain free or just," said Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who worked for RFE/RL for nearly a decade when it was based in Munich (a transcript of President Ilves's speech can be found here).
RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin called today "a very important day in the life of a great company." Gedmin thanked the assembled guests for their support and said the dedication "is, most importantly, an opportunity to celebrate our brave journalists who put their lives on the line every day in order to bring accurate and fair-minded news to millions of people who rely on us for uncensored information."
The new broadcast center accommodates RFE/RL's 500 Prague-based employees and is located in Hagibor, ten minutes from the city center. The five-story, 236,000 sq/ft building features the latest broadcast infrastructure and multimedia technology and adheres to the highest standards in energy-efficiency and security. [photogallery]
"It's a great blessing to be able to stand in the new headquarters of a media company that will always be a symbol of freedom," said Prague Mayor Pavel Bem. "Over the decades, RFE/RL's employees demonstrated bravery and honor in the face of threats from governments who were hostile to free media."
The US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees all US international broadcasting, including RFE/RL and the Voice of America (VOA), was represented by Governors Jeffrey Hirschberg, Steve Simmons, Joaquin Blaya, and Blanquita Cullum.
"When historians look back at the defining struggle of our time - the fight for liberty and tolerance against the forces of totalitarianism, prejudice and fanaticism - they will point to this very spot, this building behind me and the hard-working people inside it as one of its focal points," said Simmons, who thanked the people of the Czech Republic and its elected officials for their continued support of RFE/RL.
Hirschberg noted that the Hagibor site was a labor camp and transit point to the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. "We are proud to be part of an effort that brings light to a place where once there was darkness," he said.
RFE/RL's previous home in Prague, the former Czechoslovak communist parliament building, is being turned over to the National Museum of the Czech Republic.
RFE/RL broadcasts in 28 languages to 20 countries where a free press is either banned by the government or not fully established. Each week, more than 25 million people in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Belarus, and elsewhere rely on RFE/RL for objective news and information.