Bad press for RFE/RL in Czech Republic

Snjezana Pelivan

Snjezana Pelivan

A former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Russian Service editor and commentator Lev Roitman has published an op-ed in the conservative Czech newspaper Lidové noviny, commenting on a recent statement from the Czech Helsinki Committee that RFE/RL’s treatment of foreign employees in the Czech Republic is “immoral.” Roitman’s wife, Snjezana Pelivan, is suing RFE/RL in the European Court of Human Rights alleging discrimination on the basis of national origin because RFE/RL is using communist-era law to deny current Czech labor law protections to its non-Czech and non-American foreign employees.

Helsinki Committee: Labor Practices of Radio Free Europe are Immoral

(Translation from Czech original: “Lidové noviny”, Prague, 15.06.2012 — http://www.ceska-media.cz/media/436194/lev-roitman-helsinsky-vybor-praxe-rfe-je-nemoralni)

 

By Lev Roitman

 

The Czech Helsinki Committee has issued a sharp statement. It criticizes the ongoing labor practices of Radio Free Europe which offers to job applicants employment agreements with discriminative clause. Labor contracts with foreigners contain the clause about the choice of American law. In fact, however, American labor laws are inapplicable to labor agreements with foreigners because such employees may request the protection of American laws only if they work in US; protection abroad is provided on condition that an employee is an American citizen.

The Helsinki Committee considers these labor practices of Radio Free Europe as immoral.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) broadcasts from Prague in 28 languages. Foreigners working on such contracts constitute the bulk of its editorial personnel. American courts are closed to them. That fact is actively exploited by the management of RFE/RL, which officially declares as its mission to support human rights and the rule of law. Foreign employees are being terminated without preliminary warning, any disciplinary measures if such are deserved at all, and without any reason given to them.

 

Using exactly this procedure, RFE/RL terminated the employment of Armenian citizen Anna Karapetian, mother of three minor children, and that of a Croatian citizen Snjezana Pelivan. Presently, Anna Karapetian’s case, after making two full rounds in lower courts, will be heard again by the Supreme Court. For the sixth time, Czech judges will consider the question which laws should be used at the territory of a sovereign country — the Czech Republic –- Czech laws or the laws of the United States. The case of Snjezana Pelivan is pending in the European Court of Human Rights. Pelivan accused the Czech Republic of failing to prevent the discrimination of foreigners employed by Radio Free Europe.

 

It is regrettable that nobody in Czech leadership really cares for the reputation of the Czech Republic on whose territory Radio Free Europe  became a law-free zone where Czech laws are invalid. Recently, after meeting Czech President Vaclav Klaus and deputy foreign minister Jiri Schneider, Dennis Mulhaupt who headed the delegation of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, proclaimed: “We could not imagine more hospitable, dedicated and supportive hosts.”

 

Members of the Washington-based BBG are nominated by the President of the United States of America. Also Hillary Clinton is an ex officio BBG member. Who among Czech political leaders would even dare to request that Washington changes RFE/RL’s immoral labor policies practiced in the Czech capital and peacefully resolves the lawsuits shameful for the international reputation of the Czech Republic?

 

The author retired in 2005 as RFE/RL senior commentator, after 30 years of service in New York, Munich, and Prague. He is the husband of Snjezana Pelivan.

The Wikipedia article on Lidové noviny (People’s News) states that it is the oldest Czech daily. The paper political, economic, cultural and scientific affairs, mostly with a centre-right, conservative view. It often hosts commentaries and opinions of prominent personalities from the Czech Republic and from abroad.

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