Advocacy

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty at 70

The Embassy of the Czech Republic recently hosted an online panel discussion Radio Free Europe at 70: Its Importance Then and Now to look at the relevance of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL or the Radios) through more than 70 years of service.  The panelists were former directors of RFE/RL Tom Dine (1997-2005) and Jamie Fly (2019-2020). 

Radio Free Europe was founded in 1949 to broadcast to Soviet satellite countries, while Radio Liberty started in 1953 to target audiences in the Soviet Union. The two entities were merged in 1976.  According to Wikipedia, their purpose was – and still is – to serve as “a free pro-democratic press in countries where the ‘free flow of information is either banned by government authorities or not fully developed.’”  (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Free_Europe/Radio_Liberty)

Former RFE/RL directors Tom Dine (top) and Jamie Fly.

The speakers highlighted the importance of a free press that functions independently without government influence in nations struggling to establish democracy.  RFE/RL has preserved its editorial independence through ensuring its funding source and organizational structure support it.  The speakers cited cases of foreign government complaints to the State Department over the Radios’ content and the Department has made a point of not accepting the complaints as it has no control over the stations.

After decades of operating in eastern and central Europe, RFE/RL now broadcasts in 23 nations and 27 languages across the globe.  While the post-Soviet space is still a focus, its service also includes audiences in central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.  In countries where independent media is fighting to survive government control, RFE/RL content includes truly objective news and information to help citizens know their legal rights when governments exercise oppressive policies.  The Radios have found their audiences to be loyal because their listeners trust the information and know it’s objective.

Since closing operations in many post-Soviet markets, including the Baltic countries in 2004 after 29 years of service, democratic backsliding has caused RFE/RL to reestablish at least an online presence in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania.  The agency is watching other nations for similar trends and is prepared to expand again as necessary.

The panelists noted that as long as the Kremlin is misbehaving and China remains a growing irritant to Western values, there will be interest in RFE/RL continuing its mission.  As witnessed in the backsliding nations mentioned above, post-Soviet democracy is not fully established, and the Radios’ work will likely be relevant for decades to come.

The full video of the 60-minute event is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQR-o-T_2zw&feature=youtu.be.

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Advocacy

EANC Meeting with United States Embassy in Tallinn

Estonian American National Council (EANC) leadership recently took part in a video conference with the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Tallinn, Brian Roraff.  EANC President Marju Rink-Abel and Vice President Mai-Liis Bartling represented EANC, with Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey and Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) Managing Director Karl Altau also participating in the call.  Chargé Roraff has been in his post as the acting chief of mission since July 2019.

U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Tallinn, Brian Roraff (Official U.S. Department of State photo. Used with permission.)

Topics of discussion included the Three Seas Summit that was held in Tallinn in October 2020; Estonia’s work as a member of the United Nations Security Council; growing cooperation between Estonia and the U.S. Agency for International Development to support democratic governance, human rights, and  digital development in Eastern Europe and Africa; defense cooperation, both bilaterally and through NATO; recent visits by U.S. officials; and how the embassy’s work and programs have had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.  More information on many of these topics is available in the News and Events section of the embassy’s website at ee.usembassy.gov.  

EANC briefed the embassy on the Estonian government’s program under the Minister of Population to increase cooperation with the more than 200,000 Estonians living abroad.  Goals of the program include developing language and cultural resources for the Estonian diaspora, improving consular services for Estonian citizens abroad, and better supporting Estonians seeking to return to Estonia.  The program is due to be presented to Parliament by the end of this year.  Please see siseministeerium.ee for more information.

The Chargé identified people-to-people contacts, sister city partnerships, and programs through the Estonian government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the foundation for the solid relationship the two countries share.  He also confirmed that military exercises and training continue and have not been substantively impacted by COVID.  Chargé Roraff emphasized that the United States and Estonia have developed an important partnership on many levels for over two decades that will only continue and deepen in the future. 

EANC will continue its contacts with the Department of State and Embassy Tallinn on these topics and will keep the Estonian community in the U.S. informed of updates.

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