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30. 6. 2015 23:04

Prime Minister Sobotka attends celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Radio Free Europe

On 30 June 2015, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka attended a gala reception to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Radio Free Europe’s relocation.
On 30 June 2015, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka attended a gala reception to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Radio Free Europe’s relocation.
On Tuesday 30 June 2015, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka attended a gala evening to in the National Museum’s new building celebrate the 20th anniversary of Radio Free Europe’s relocation from Munich to Prague. He also took the opportunity to introduce laureates of the Karel Kramář Medal.

Prime Minister’s speech

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish you a pleasant evening. Czech and Slovak history has been written right here in this hall. It has been written here in bad times; it has been written here in better times. As we have already heard, it was precisely 20 years ago that this building became a symbol of Czech-American relations when Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty started broadcasting from here.

As a student in the years prior to 1989, I – as many people in the then Czechoslovakia did – would listen to Free Europe. It was an important alternative source of information. At the time, it was very difficult for me to imagine that, one day, my country and I would be part of the democratic West. Then along came the Velvet Revolution and the Communist regime collapsed to its foundations. We had to learn, come to grips with and overcome numerous obstacles as we sought to build a democratic country. We had to take everything on board at dizzying speed.

Even so, I still remember those days in 1994 when Radio Free Europe made the switch from Munich to Prague. After four and a half years of nascent Czech democracy, rather than having broadcasts transmitted to us Easterners, transmissions were to be made from us Westerners! Free Europe’s initial headquarters, right here in this building of the former Czechoslovak Federal Parliament, was also symbolic.

Against this backdrop, I would like to give a special mention to two prominent figures in the history of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Pavel Pecháček and Kevin Klos. It is my pleasure to inform you that, as the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, I have decided to reward their lifelong work in pursuit of democracy, freedom and human rights, and the significant contribution they have made to the transformation and development of our country, by awarding them the Karel Kramář Medal.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The very best propaganda is the truth” – these are the words of Pavel Pecháček, whose life is so closely bound up with Free Europe. He embodies unflagging active assistance devoted to our country from exile in Germany and the United States. It was he who, during November 89, broadcasted on-the-spot reports in Czech from Wenceslas Square, at a time when the previous regime was still jamming the media. He started working for Free Europe after emigrating in 1968. In 1975, he was appointed as the director of the Czechoslovak Section of Voice of America in Washington, and then between 1989 and 2001 he found himself back in Munich and Prague in charge of Free Europe. He was subsequently involved in the transformation of the station into Czech Radio 6. He is now celebrating a milestone in life as he turns 75. I now wholeheartedly greet him – I am sure on your behalf also – in Washington and wish him sound health into the future.

In addition to Mr Pecháček, I would also like to extend my gratitude to Kevin Klos, who, together with Václav Havel, made a major contribution to the idea of relocating Radio Free Europe from Munich to Prague and who brought this idea to fruition as the station’s president between 1994 and 1997. He started out as an editor for Washington Post. Over the course of his 25-year stint for this newspaper, he experienced the Brezhnev era as a reporter in Moscow . He followed this up by 10 years at the helm of the most significant US public-service station. He also managed Free Europe between 2012 and 2014. These days, he passes on his experience to young journalists in his capacity as a university professor.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to close by thanking Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – and not just in relation to the past 20 years – for the sheer amount of work it has done, for its irreplaceable assistance during the hard times of deprivation, for being a beacon of objectivity in a universe of disinformation, for the guidance it has given to large numbers of listeners, and for disseminating the voice of freedom.

My wish, not so much for the station, but more for its listeners, is that their numbers remain as high as possible and that the words of Free Europe and liberty be spread in all areas that find themselves under duress and injustice today. Most importantly, my wish is for all of today’s listeners of Free Europe to have the opportunity to join the free world, just as our country did 20 years ago and counting.

Thank you very much.

Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic

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