Czech journalist and former dissident receives prize for life-long commitment

Petr Uhl

A well-known Czech journalist, former dissident, human rights activist, and until recently a Czech government human rights envoy, Petr Uhl, has received an award for his work as a journalist from the international organization Reporters Without Borders. He received the "Signal for Europe" award for his life-long commitment to promoting the freedom of the press.

Radio Prague spoke to Rubina Moehring from the Austrian branch of Reporters Without Borders:

"The name of the prize is 'Signal for Europe', and it's dedicated to journalists of all the countries which want to join the European Union, and I think it's very important as a signal from these countries and the signal from Vienna to show that Vienna is open to its neighbours and for the candidates for the European Union. I'm very, very happy that Petr Uhl was awarded - or is going to be awarded - the prize, especially because of, say, the difficult relations between Austria and the Czech Republic at the moment. The non-governmental organizations and we, in Austria, are for the Czech Republic entering the European Union, and I'm happy that Mr. Uhl got the award, because we admire him and see him as a significant person - you can look at him and take him as an example of how to live and work as a journalist."

Petr Uhl himself was very pleased to receive such an award:

"I was very happy to learn that I had won this year's award, but I must say it did not come as a big surprise to me, because at my age it happens that one receives awards. As for my lifework, I value most all those years back in the 1970s, when I was among the main activists to spread the truth about the Charter 77 anti-Communist manifesto and explain to people what we were trying to achieve. I also loved my work in the clandestine East European Information Agency based in Warsaw, that was active before 1989, and - I hope - contributed substantially to the fall of Communism."

However, Petr Uhl believes that even now, it is necessary to fight for the freedom of the press - not only in the Czech Republic but elsewhere in the world, because there are always pressures and tendencies to oppress it. But Mr. Uhl does not think the situation in the Czech Republic is, as he put it, "so dramatic"; Things are much worse in other former Communist countries, such as Belarus and the Balkan states.