RFE does not rule out moving out of city centre

Security measures around RFE

After the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United Stated, four armoured personnel carriers were stationed outside the Prague headquarters of the US-funded Radio Free Europe and several paratroopers with assault rifles are patrolling the building. In December, the National Security Council recommended the station should move out of the centre of Prague, the United States, however doesn't acknowledge the need to relocate the station. Pavla Horakova has more.

RFE logo
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty moved its headquarters to Prague from Munich in 1995 at the invitation of the Czech President Vaclav Havel. The radio moved to the steel-and-glass structure close to the top of Prague's Wenceslas Square, which used to be the home of the Federal Parliament of socialist Czechoslovakia. Right across the street from it you'll find the National Museum and on the other side the building is adjoined by the State Opera. The city's main railway station is nearby, the underground line runs right underneath the building and two major traffic routes run along both sides of it. It is, no doubt, a very sensitive location for an institution that could be a terrorist target. RFE, which is funded by the US Congress, also broadcasts to Muslim countries such as Iran and Iraq and it will soon resume broadcasts to Afghanistan. After the attacks on the US, Czech officials adopted security measures, which reduced traffic in the neighbourhood, and a wall of concrete barriers was erected around Radio Free Europe to give it greater protection. Four armoured vehicles and a group of camouflage-clad paratroopers with guns over their shoulders patrol the building round the clock. But what this high-profile and costly security operation can't provide is 100 percent protection from a terrorist attack. The Czech authorities have therefore been seriously considering the possibility of moving Radio Free Europe out of the city centre, so as to reduce the impact of a potential terrorist attack. The head of the station, Thomas Dine says abandoning its current headquarters would not only capitulate to terrorist wishes but also violate the hospitality extended by the Czech government seven years ago. However, Sonia Winter, the Radio Free Europe's spokeswoman, is keeping the options open...

"We don't rule out the possibility of moving and Mr Dine has said he welcomes the negotiations with the Czech government. He would also like to have a look at some alternatives. So far the Czech government hasn't submitted any. And if these alternatives met our basic conditions for our operations Mr Dine would certainly consider the possibility. We don't rule out any possibilities but so far we haven't seen anything specific."

Finally, I asked a few citizens of Prague walking past the Radio Free Europe building what they thought of moving the station from its present location...

"In my opinion it's necessary, I'm afraid..."

"It would be practical, because we can't drive here anymore..."

"Well, I think it would be a practical thing, considering the security situation at the moment."

"I think it's a matter of caution..."

"It should not move, I'm 100 percent against it..."