Radio Free Europe

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The target area of ​​RFE / RL

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty ( RFE / RL ; German Radio Free Europe ) is a broadcaster that produces radio programs in 28 Eastern European , Near Eastern and Central Asian languages; these programs are mainly broadcast on shortwave .

Funded by the United States Congress, the agency is under the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and has its legal seat in Wilmington (Delaware) with headquarters in Prague . The operator of the broadcasting facilities is the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), which is responsible for broadcasting all state international broadcasts in the USA . According to the RFE / RL, the aim is to convey democratic values ​​to listeners in the formerly communist-ruled countries and to enable the human right to free access to news.

RFE / RL was located in Munich until 1995 and was then relocated to Prague. It was an important tool for providing radio listeners in the sovereign territory of the Soviet Union with information from the West. It was initially suggested to the public that RFE / RL was privately financed. In fact, until the early 1970s, a large part of the budget came from the US foreign intelligence service, the CIA . The Soviet Union and its allies saw RFE as a hostile propaganda tool , which is why a number of intelligence actions were carried out against employees and facilities.


Former building of the Federal Parliament on Wenceslas Square in Prague , seat of the radio until 2008

Radio Free Europe was founded by the National Committee for a Free Europe under John Jay McCloy , Allen Welsh Dulles and Charles Douglas Jackson . The industrialist Henry Ford II and Nelson Rockefeller were also on the founding list . The station started broadcasting in 1950 from its main office in Munich. On May 1, 1951, the regular broadcasts for Czechoslovakia ( KW Biblis , MW Holzkirchen ) began. Radio Free Europe was aimed at listeners in Central and Eastern European countries outside the former Soviet Union. The American Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia followed the example of Radio Free Europe and founded the sister station Radio Liberation in 1953 , which initially broadcast programs in Russian from the KW station in Lampertheim . A license under telecommunications law for the operation of the transmitter was granted by the West German side at the end of the occupation statute in 1955 and renewed in 1978. In 1953, on behalf of the USA, a part was cut off in the east of the Schleissheim airfield and made available to RFE / RL for the construction of a bungalow as a monitor station.

In the 1950s, expectations of an early “liberation” of the peoples of Russia were dashed. In 1964, Radio Liberation was renamed Radio Liberty (Russian: Radio Swoboda , in German: "Radio Freiheit"). Occasionally there were reports of secret service connections between the stations, which threatened the very existence of both stations and which were later confirmed. The programs were removed from the CIA's control in the early 1970s. In 1973 Radio Liberty moved to Radio Free Europe at the Englischer Garten in Munich. In October 1976, Free Europe, Inc. and Radio Liberty Committee, Inc. merged to form RFE / RL, Inc. On February 21, 1981, the shared building was bombed and eight people were injured.

In the times of the Cold War, many foreign language broadcasts of were jamming in the Soviet Union disrupted ( jamming ). After the collapse of the USSR , the broadcasters' budget was reduced. In 1995 RFE / RL relocated its main office from Munich to Prague on Wenceslas Square .

Radio Free Europe newsroom in Munich, 1994

The former studio building in Munich on Oettingenstrasse houses several departments of the university library and institutes of the Ludwig Maximilians University as well as the Geschwister Scholl Institute for Political Science. The video surveillance as part of the former security systems has been preserved to this day. In some of the old RFE / RL studios, the training and advanced training radio AFK M94.5 was housed until 2002 . In many other rooms you can see traces of the building's past: double doors and double glazing.

The shortwave transmitter from IBB near Biblis

Today RFE / RL broadcasts in 26 languages ​​for listeners in 22 countries and produces around 1,100 hours of radio programs per week. In Germany, shortwave transmission systems are used at the Biblis and Lampertheim locations in Hesse . The Holzkirchen transmitter in Bavaria has since been shut down. There are other IBB broadcasting facilities in Afghanistan , Armenia , Bulgaria , Great Britain , Kuwait , Lithuania , Sri Lanka , Hungary , Morocco , Tajikistan , Thailand and the Philippines , which also broadcast Voice of America (VoA) and Radio Free Asia programs.

Some of the programs are broadcast in the target areas via medium wave , VHF , the Internet and re-broadcasting. The latter is the adoption of radio broadcasts in the programming of local radio stations. For political reasons, this is currently not possible in Belarus , Iran , Turkmenistan , Tajikistan and Uzbekistan .

Other broadcasts are operated under the name Radio Free Afghanistan in the languages Pashto and Dari , Radio Free Iraq in Arabic , and Radio Farda - in cooperation with the Voice of America - in Persian .


Dennis Mulhaupt , who is also a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, has been chairman of the RFE Corporate Board since October 2010 . He is also a director of the philanthropic organization Commonwealth Partners, Inc.

Combat by Eastern Bloc secret services

The stations have been viewed as a threat by the Soviet Union since their inception in the early 1950s as they transported Western ideas to the Eastern Bloc . Strong Soviet jammers were supposed to worsen the reception quality; this was compensated by an increase in the transmission power of RFE.

The Soviet foreign intelligence service immediately began carrying out murders of staff at the Munich station. In September 1954, the Belarusian writer Leonid Karas was found dead in the Isar near Munich. In November of the same year, Abdulrachmann Fatalibey , head of the Azerbaijani branch of Radio Liberty, was murdered.

A chain of events related to intelligence activities runs through the stations' history. In the 1980s in particular, there were numerous attempts to kidnap employees of the station. In a bomb attack on the transmitter building in Munich, which the terrorist Johannes Weinrich carried out on behalf of the Romanian secret service Securitate on the evening of February 21, 1981, despite the use of 15 kilograms of nitropenta explosives, no one was killed, but six people were injured. In the 1990s, KGB General Oleg Kalugin admitted to having helped organize the operation.


The Germany Kultur 2011 published an article entitled "propaganda on behalf of the CIA" and called it Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty "more than just news channel". The WDR also noted in an article that Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty had always been suspected of being a "CIA-controlled propaganda organ". Robert T. Holt wrote in a publication from 1958 that Radio Free Europe is said to have been a propaganda organ even when it was founded. Unlike the Voice of America , Radio Free Europe did not see itself as the voice of another country, but as the voice of “free exiles” of communist countries. George Urban , former head of RFE / RL in the 1980s, stated in a book published in 1997 that the American public had felt uncomfortable using the word “propaganda”, which is why this term is used in discussions about RFE / RL consistently avoided. Stacey Cone described the two radio stations in 1997 in the journal "Journalism History" of Ohio University as American "Cold War propaganda stations".


  • Johanna Granville: “Caught With Jam on Our Fingers”: Radio Free Europe and the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. (German Radio Free Europe and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 ) In: Diplomatic History. 29, No. 5, 2005, pp. 811-839 ( online at ).
  • József Molnár : A Szabad Európa Rádió a forradalom napjaiban (German Radio Free Europe in the Days of the Revolution - autobiography ). ISBN 963-9592-10-2 .
  • Stefan Meining : A mosque in Germany. Nazis, Secret Services, and the Rise of Political Islam in the West. CH Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 3-406-61411-6 . First: Between half moon and swastika , ARD 2006. (In particular on the organizational and content-related difference between RFE and "Radio Liberation")
  • Anna Bischof u. a. (Ed.): Voices of Freedom - Western interference? 60 Years of Radio Free Europe , Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Rupprecht, 2015.


  • Greetings from Moscow - The Great Radio War (Germany 2008) on YouTube - Director: Christian Bauer - 90 minutes
  • Diana Ivanova: LISTN 2014 (76 min.)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. 22 USC § 6207
  2. RFE / RL, Inc.
  3. see also 22 USC § 6211
  5. ^ A b S. Cone: Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, the CIA and the News Media. In: Journalism History, Winter 1998/1999. Retrieved January 18, 2015 .
  6. ^ Till Janzer: On behalf of the USA: The Czechoslovak broadcasts from RFE. In: Radio Prague International , May 14, 2011.
  7. ^ German Bundestag stenographic report 39th session. In: , page 2100, May 27, 1981 ( PDF ).
  8. ^ Hermann Rumschöttel: Oberschleißheim - A journey through time . Ed .: Municipality of Oberschleißheim. Oberschleißheim 2010, ISBN 978-3-00-032731-5 .
  9. RFE, RL, RFE-RL: a year of merger
  10. Augsburger Allgemeine of February 21, 2011, section Das Datum .
  11. Fast Facts , website of RFE / RL, accessed on March 3, 2019 (English)
  12. Mulhaupt to chair RFE Board, October 7 of 2010.
  13. ^ Voices of Freedom - Radio Free Europe in the Cold War on
  14. Cissie Dore Hill: Voices of Hope: The Story of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. In: Hoover Institution. Retrieved December 22, 2016 .
  15. Kaminski, Lukasz; Persak, Krzysztof Gieseke, Jens (Hrsg.): Handbook of the communist secret services in Eastern Europe 1944–1991 , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-525-35100-0 , p. 367.
  16. «Что значит вещать в вату?»: Ветеран «Радио Свобода» - о временах, когда глушилки, to broadcast, in German, the "Liberty" means "in the tenses of the radio from Watte были большимan which the jammers were big). In: The Insider. November 21, 2017. Retrieved December 24, 2017 (Russian).
  17. ^ Otto Langels: Propaganda on behalf of the CIA. In: Deutschlandfunk Kultur , February 21, 2011.
  18. July 4, 1950 - Radio Free Europe goes on air in Munich. In: WDR , July 4, 2015.
  19. ^ Robert T. Holt: Radio Free Europe , 1958, University of Minnesota Press, page 3
  20. ^ George Urban: Radio Free Europe and the Pursuit of Democracy: My War Within the Cold War , 1997, Yale University Press, pp. 60-61
  21. Stacey Cone: presuming a Right to Deceive: Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, the CIA, and the News Media in Journalism History , 1997, Ohio University
  22. ↑ With love to Moscow - The great radio war
  23. Trailer on Vimeo, accessed January 7, 2016 (HTML).