OMB Proposes to Ax RFE/RL Broadcasts to Baltic Countries

The President’s proposed budget for 2004 does not provide any funds for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcasts to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. And unless Congress reinstates the funds, the broacasts will be discontinued this summer.According to Baltic leaders both here and in the Baltic countries, the accurate, nonpartisan, and balanced portrayal of world events by RFE is a highly valued and important news source in the Baltic countries as demonstrated by millions of listeners. RFE broadcasts offset the propoganda reports directed to the Baltic population by the Russian state radio and private stations.

Concerned about the loss of the Baltic service, Baltic leaders are urging the Baltic American community to contact Administration officials and members of Congress to seek restoration of the funding (See BALTIC ACTION page). “RFE Baltic broadcasts are incredibly important to help the Baltic countries develop as confident, viable democracies. It sets the bar for excellence in broadcast news,” stated the President of the Baltic American Freedom League.

The Baltic programs will be the first to be cut because they are not considered to be a part of the war against terrorism, even though the Baltic governments have unanimously and unequivocally declared that they will support U.S. action in the war against terrorism and Baltic troops are serving in Afghanistan, said Pavlovskis.

Outgoing President Valdas Adamkus and about a third of the members of Lithuania’s parliament sent a joint letter to U.S. officials and Congresspersons asking that the funding not be cut for the Baltic broadcasts. “We were distressed to learn that Congress is considering a budget that will eliminate funding for the Lithuanian service of Radio Free Europe,” states the letter. The letter notes that RFE/L “played an important role in helping Lithuania reestablish its independence and continues to play a crucial role in our transition to a democratic society and free market [economy] as a comprehensive, impartial and vital source of information about the United States and the world.”

President Valdas Adamkus also sent a personal letter to President George W. Bush urging him not to shut down the service.

Former Prime Minister of Lithuania Adrius Kublilis said: “This [RFE] is an unbiased source of information and Lithuania needs it because some of the media here could easily be influenced by money and lose their independence.”

It is expected that the Administration’s budget will be submitted to Congress on February 3rd.

BAFL Information Service