By Lev Roitman



On Saturday, Prague expects the visit by President Barack Obama
and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. By virtue of her position,
the Secretary is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Radio
Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which on Prague Vaclavske namesti
occupies the building of former Czechoslovak National Assembly.

In that building, in July of 1995, marking the occasion of American
Independence Day and recent RFE/RL relocation from Munich to Prague,
Hillary Clinton called for the global "alliance of democratic
values". Ten years later, in the same building resonated the words of
Vaclav Havel who actively contributed to the RFE/RL transfer to Prague:
"I take pride in the fact that previously Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty was broadcasting to Prague and now, from Prague, it brings a
free word to the world". Hillary Clinton's and Vaclav Havel's speeches
were translated into all RFE/RL broadcasting languages. In Armenian
translated Anna Karapetian. She does not work for RFE/RL anymore.

After twelve years of irreproachable service, Anna Karapetian, a
journalist with twenty years of professional experience, mother of
three minors, was fired. Her employment was terminated without any
warning, without any reason given to her, without even severance
payment, for she refused to sign a consent with such a termination
and give up her right to appeal to court. Such "philosophy of
employment-at-will", which directly violates Czech labor laws,
is an integral part of the official RFE/RL "Policy Manual" in the
Czech Republic.

Arbitrary Terminations at RFE/RL

Czech RFE/RL employees, at the insistence of the Czech trade unions,
are protected by Czech labor laws. Americans are covered by American
legislation. By decision of RFE/RL management, Czech labor legislation
does not apply to its employees from third countries. Also, as to
foreigners working for American employer outside the United States,
American laws do not apply to them either. What is applicable is RFE/RL
"philosophy" only. At the same time, nationals of those 20 states
to which the radio station brings in 28 languages the "free word",
constitute the bulk of all foreign RFE/RL personnel in Prague.

Anna Karapetian, whose case is to be considered by the Czech Supreme
Court, by far is not the only victim of RFE/RL "philosophy". On
March 11th, Czech news agency CTK reported that Snjezana Pelivan,
a Croatian citizen fired in the same "philosophical" mode as was
Anna Karapetian, requested Czech Constitutional Court to summon
Mrs. Clinton. Her testimony should clarify whether discriminative
actions of U.S. Congress-financed RFE/RL are "consistent with the broad
foreign policy objectives of the United States " and "promote respect
for human rights" as prescribed by the United States International
Broadcasting Act.

However, how could it happen that legal sovereignty of the Czech
Republic ends on Vaclavske namesti? Paradox as it is, but Czech
Republic still has some legal regulations that did not change from
the communist times, allowing foreign organizations to use foreign
labor laws as long as it is not in contradiction to fundamental
principles of the "Czechoslovak Socialist Republic". What a cynical
irony: a law dating back to 1963, which once allowed the Soviet Union
operate unhindered at the territory of Czechoslovakia, presently is
abused by American management of RFE/RL for discrimination of its
employees. Lower Czech courts, bound by legislation of communist
Czechoslovakia, are unable to protect foreigners employed by RFE/RL
against arbitrary terminations.

To certain extent, the forthcoming visit by Barack Obama and Hillary
Clinton to Prague is designed to demonstrate that Obama's declared
intention to "show the world the best face of America" was not
just a campaign rattle. Indeed, there are manifold indications that
well-informed and sensitive Hillary Clinton's State Department, in
contrast to RFE/RL management inherited from the previous Washington
administration, clearly understands that the dignity, moral influence
and political reputation of RFE/RL are safeguarded by public sympathy
and not by the use of legal loopholes and gimmicks.

There is no more suitable time and place for Czech politicians - the
president, prime minister, foreign minister, to raise the question
of disgraceful to the Czech Republic and the United States RFE/RL
policies and actions than during Prague visit by Barack Obama and
Hillary Clinton. And that in the interests of Czech sovereignty and
American reputation.


Lev Roitman, journalist, retired in 2005 as RFE/RL Senior Commentator
after thirty years of work in New York, Munich and Prague

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress