Czech Court Rules RFE/RL Cannot Discriminate Against Its Own Foreign Journalists
FreeMediaOnline.org Truckee, CA, USA, December 02, 2010 — A court in the Czech Republic has ruled that a former Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Armenian broadcaster Anna Karapetian should not have been fired using RFE/RL’s personnel procedures which deprive non-American and non-Czech employees of some of the protections of Czech labor laws. RFE/RL is a semi-private entity funded and managed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a U.S. government agency.
Supported entirely by U.S. taxpayers through a Congressional appropriation to the BBG, RFE/RL originates radio and Internet programs from its headquarters in the Czech Republic and news bureaus throughout Eurasia. It employs hundreds of foreign nationals and broadcasts in 28 languages to 21 countries of the former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union, as well as to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Anna Karapetian and other former RFE/RL journalists have argued that with the approval of the BBG, the radio station has been for many years using an old Communist-era Czechoslovak law which allows it to apply special terms of employment for its contract journalists brought to the Czech Republic from other countries.
The fired RFE/RL journalists claim that by exempting them from some of the current Czech labor regulations and applying its own personnel policies, RFE/RL has been discriminating against them and denying a large group of foreign-born broadcasters some of the essential legal protections which are available to RFE/RL’s American and Czech employees.
RFE/RL insists that it is in full compliance with U.S. and Czech labor laws and from time to time must reduce employment due to shifting priorities and budget restrictions.
In court cases against RFE/RL and in articles published in the local media and posted on the Internet, the journalists complained that they could be fired at any time without being given a specific reason and an opportunity to appeal the termination of their employment. They also charged that they could not receive their severance pay if they refused to give up the right to challenge their termination in court.
Anna Karapetian, a mother of three minor children, had been fired under this procedure after 12 years of what appears to be exemplary employment at RFE/RL. She refused to sign her termination agreement and sued RFE/RL in Czech courts.
RFE/RL’s treatment of foreign-born journalists has generated a lot of negative publicity in the Czech Republic and in some of the countries to which RFE/RL directs its radio programs, including Russia.
Earlier this year, Czech senator Jaromir Stetina, deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Defense and Security, and a member of the Senate Commission on International Support for Democracy, called discrimination of RFE/RL foreign employees “patently indecent, unfair, cynical and hypocritical.” The purpose of RFE/RL programs, specified by the U.S. Congress, is to promote free flow of information and development of democracy. The fired journalists claim that discriminatory employment practices are also inconsistent with RFE/RL’s mission statement which calls for the station to serve as model for local media.
Another former RFE/RL employee Snjezana Pelivan, whose employment had been terminated in a similar manner, has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, also claiming discrimination on the basis of national origin. Prior to the latest ruling, Czech court decisions found that the firing of Ms. Pelivan and Ms. Karapetian by RFE/RL did not violate Czech laws.
In overturning Anna Karapetian’s firing, the Czech Court ruled that it had enough evidence and did not need to hear from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ms. Karapetian requested Mrs. Clinton’s testimony as an ex officio member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors which has the ultimate power over management and personnel practices at RFE/RL
RFE/RL can appeal the latest Czech court decision.
Information Centre ICCEE CAUCASUS – EASTERN EUROPE, Prague, Czech Republic “Czech Court to American Radio Free Europe”
Информационный центр ICCEE КАВКАЗ – ВОСТОЧНАЯ ЕВРОПА (CAUCASUS – EASTERN EUROPE), Prague, Czech Republic
“Чешский суд американскому Радио Свободная Европа: В Чехии нет места американским законам. В показаниях Хиллари Клинтон нет необходимости”