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Promoting Free Media: Informing the 1989 Velvet Revolution and the Challenge Today

Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic - Thousands of people gather under a banner reading "Liberty" flashing Victory signs as they stage the biggest anti-Communist rally for 20 years, Prague, 27Nov2009

RFE/RL, the Embassy of the Czech Republic and the Woodrow Wilson Center

invite you to a panel discussion on

Promoting Free Media:
Informing the 1989 Velvet Revolution and the Challenge Today

Thursday, October 16, 2014
2:00pm - 6:00pm

Wilson Center, 6th Floor Auditorium
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania, Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Part 1:

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Part 2:

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Czechs and Slovaks regained their freedom in November 1989 through non-violent protests in Prague, Bratislava, and other towns of then Czechoslovakia. Their Velvet Revolution climaxed a decade of renewed civic challenges to a repressive Communist regime that began with Charter 77 dissidents including Vaclav Havel and accelerated after 1986. Deprived of objective information about developments in their own country, Czechs and Slovaks turned to the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and other Western broadcasters for information. Only through Western radio did they learn about accelerating challenges to Communist orthodoxy in Poland, Hungary, and the Soviet Union and about ferment in their own country.

Twenty five years after the Velvet Revolution, Europe today is whole and free, but democracy and prerequisite independent media are on the decline in much of the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. RFE/RL, now operating from Prague, VOA, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Network, and Radio Marti, all publicly funded by the U.S. Congress, work to redress the information deficit.

The first panel will review the contribution of Western broadcasting to the successful Velvet Revolution and consider lessons from that experience. A second panel will examine the challenge faced today by the United States in providing objective information to authoritarian countries and in applying principles of successful Cold War broadcasting to communicating with unfree societies.

Panel One – Western Broadcasting to Czechoslovakia

A. Ross Johnson
Wilson Center Senior Scholar (moderator)

Petr Gandalovic
Ambassador of the Czech Republic

Jiri Pehe
Director, New York University Prague Center (via Internet)

R. Eugene Parta
Former Chair, Conference of International Broadcasters Audience Research and former Director, RFE/RL Audience and Opinion Research

Pavel Pechacek
Former director, VOA Czechoslovak Service; former director, RFE/RL Czechoslovak and Czech Services

Alexandr Vondra
Former Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defense Minister of the Czech Republic; former Czech Ambassador to the U.S. (via Internet)

Panel Two – Promoting Free Media Today

Blair A. Ruble
Vice President for Programs; Director, Urban Sustainability Laboratory; and Senior Advisor, Kennan Institute (moderator)

David Kramer
President, Freedom House

Kevin Klose
Professor, Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland; former President, RFE/RL, Inc.; former President, National Public Radio

Nenad Pejic
Editor in Chief, RFE/RL

Tania Chomiak-Salvi
Deputy Coordinator for International Information Programs, US Department of State