WASHINGTON – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian Service marked its 60th anniversary on September 18 at an event in Kyiv, attended by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko and hosted by the Prague Freedom Foundation.
In keynote remarks, Yatsenyuk said, “Empires collapsed, walls fell, dictators disappeared, but Radio Svoboda exists and will exist, as well as freedom.” The Prime Minister told the audience of diplomats, members of the Ukrainian parliament, civil society leaders, and journalists, “I wish all of us to listen to Radio Svoboda and be free people thanks to the truth and thanks to Radio Svoboda.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, currently visiting the U.S., sent a written statement that was read at the event. “Generations of modern Ukrainian politicians grew up listening to your programs, despite artificially created obstacles,” he wrote. “Your many years of work are an example of how to care for the interests of the society, independent of party interests and political regimes.”
Also attending the anniversary celebration were Karel Schwarzenberg, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Czech Chamber of Deputies; Laima Andrikiene, a former member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Subcommittee on Human Rights; Ukrainian parliament members Iryna Gerashchenko and Hryhoriy Nemyria; and Hromadske TV founder Mustafa Nayem, all of whom participated in a panel discussion on the role of propaganda and the power of independent journalism in situations of conflict and war.
Service director Maryana Drach said the Service’s accomplishments draw on a distinguished history, citing the service’s support of dissidents during the Soviet period and its reporting on issues long hidden by the Soviet government and media, such as Holodomor (the man-made Great Famine of 1932-33, which resulted in the death of millions of Ukrainians). Drach added, “Today Radio Svoboda reports on the seizure of the [Crimean Tatar parliament] Mejlis, the closure of Ukrainian schools in Crimea, and alleged torture of captives in Eastern Ukraine,” always remaining faithful to its mission to provide journalistically sound news and analysis.
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda, began its first broadcast from Munich, West Germany on August 16, 1954 with this call: “Brothers and sisters! Ukrainians! We live abroad, but our hearts and minds are always with you. No Iron Curtain can separate us or keep us apart.” The Service has enjoyed dramatic growth among local audiences this year as a result of its live-streamed coverage of events relating to the Euromaidan demonstrations. Its on-site reporting from Crimea and the conflict zones in eastern Ukraine, and investigations into the properties and finances of the Yanukovych regime is regularly cited by major international and local media.