WASHINGTON - Local language broadcasts financed by the U.S. government in six East European countries -including the three Baltic states - ended last week, as funding was cut by President George W. Bush.
Bush signed on Jan. 23 the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which eliminates broadcasting in the Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Slovak, Bulgarian and Croatian languages. More than 100 positions will be cut at RFE/RL's broadcasting center in Prague and in its news bureaus in Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Bratislava, Bucharest, Sofia and Zagreb.
The broadcasting cuts will take effect on Jan. 31, 2004.
Closing a chapter in American-sponsored journalism in the region, Thomas A. Dine, president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, thanked the broadcasters and staff of six RFE/RL European language services for a "job well-done," in a message last week to staff announcing the imminent end of broadcasts to those countries.
"The entire RFE/RL family, alumni and current colleagues, salute the members of our Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Slovak, Bulgarian and Croatian services for an excellent and successful job well-done. You were great on behalf of promoting freedom and democracy. To each of you, thank you," Dine said.
Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees all U.S. nonmilitary international broadcasting, including RFE/RL, echoed Dine's comments.
"We deeply appreciate the work of the people of these services. Their sacrifices will always be remembered," he said.
The reduction of services stemmed from the Bush administration's proposal to end broadcasting to countries that are preparing to join NATO and the European Union. Congress accepted the proposal in endorsing the appropriations act.
Dine said, "Without additional funding, there is no other way than to close these services in view of priorities in other parts of the world." RFE/RL broadcasts more than 1,100 hours a week in 34 languages, of which 19 are to places where the majority populations are Muslim.
RFE/RL will continue broadcasting to Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia, Macedonia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, North Caucasus, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz-stan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.