Terrorists threaten Radio Free Europe

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty after September 11, 2001

When Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty - headquartered in central Prague - began its Radio Free Iraq service in 1998, the risk of a terrorist attack against it increased significantly. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in the United States, the Czech police and military have been guarding the radio station's building, and have installed concrete barricades and armoured personnel carriers in front of it. Recently, the Czech Foreign Ministry expelled five Iraqi diplomats, partly because it had reason to suspect that the Iraqi secret service was planning a terrorist attack against the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty building. Martin Hrobsky spoke to Sonia Winter, the spokesperson at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's headquarters in Prague, and began by asking her how serious the terrorist threats against it are:

"The gravity of the threat hasn't changed much for several years now. It was first expressed by the Iraqi government in 1998 when we began broadcasting to Iraq. Then from time to time, I guess depending on external circumstances, the situation gets a little more tense or less tense."

Has the threat increased since the start of the war in Iraq?

"We are in a higher state of vigilance because the US State Department has issued a warning for all American organisations and facilities abroad to be on alert for a terrorist attack, so I would say it has increased as it has increased for all American institutions."

Since the threat exists, do you think Radio Free Europe will change its location? There have been talks between the Czech and American governments - has any progress been made on this front?

"There have been discussions on this for at least a year, I would say. We are in regular contact with the Czech government, we are looking for sites and it's a process which is going to take some time. Both sides realise how difficult it is to find a facility that accommodates a radio station that broadcasts in thirty four languages to twenty five countries for more than one thousand hours a week, just from the technical standpoint. But we are looking for a site, we have a list of possibilities, we are in regular discussion with the Czech government about this, and the search continues."

And you would say there is a desire for this on the part of the American government as well?

"President Bush expressed support for the idea of relocation when he was here last fall attending the NATO summit."