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GORBACHEV CALLS ON WHITE HOUSE TO FUND RADIO LIBERTY

 MOSCOW, March 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev has called on the Clinton administration to continue funding Radio Liberty, the U.S. government-financed broadcast organization that transmits news and information into the nations of the former Soviet Union.
 Mr. Gorbachev said the radio station is a "stabilizing influence in an unstable time" and said he hopes it will operate at least 10 more years, declaring it "necessary, needed" as his country seeks to transform itself from a totalitarian state into a democratic, free-market nation. He said American diplomats in Moscow would carry his message of support directly to President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress.
 Mr. Gorbachev issued his declaration of full support for the broadcaster at an extraordinary gathering of senior Russian government and parliamentary figures and foreign diplomats here Saturday (March 20) to mark the 40th anniversary of Radio Liberty's first broadcasts into the then-Soviet Union.
 "I hope to be present at the 50th anniversary of Radio Liberty," Mr. Gorbachev asserted. "I am making these remarks on purpose, aware that representatives of the United States Government and of the U.S. Embassy are here in the room, and will pass this message to the Congress and the president in Washington."
 Mr. Gorbachev said that in the "dark years" of Communist rule before his own perestroika (reconstruction) reform program began, Radio Liberty "told the truth. We hope the radio station will continue in the future."
 The former Soviet leader made his remarks just hours before President Boris Yeltsin imposed presidential rule in Russia. Mr. Gorbachev, referring to the possible move by Mr. Yeltsin, dramatized Radio Liberty's importance by declaring that Russia is "in an unstable time... as tonight's events may show."
 Other guests included famed human rights leader Sergei Kovalyov, former Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov, who is now chairman of the Movement for Democratic Reform and Russian People's Deputies Viktor Sheynis, Fyodor Shelov-Kovedyaev and Yuri Afanasyev.
 In a briefing session later with Radio Liberty executives and members of its board of directors, the Board for International Broadcasting, Mr. Gorbachev said he plans to visit the United States in April and "will definitely carry the message" personally to American leaders to preserve the independent radio station. "This is a very serious matter, very serious," Mr. Gorbachev declared.
 Of proposals in Washington to terminate the independent radio service's budget, Mr. Gorbachev asserted, "This shutting of Radio Liberty is wrong, absolutely wrong."
 Malcolm S. Forbes Jr., chairman of the Board for International Broadcasting, told Mr. Gorbachev that the idea of ending funding for Radio Liberty and its sister station, Radio Free Europe, came from "middle-level bureaucrats" who do not understand the importance of the broadcasts to millions of people in countries just emerging from Communist rule.
 "Absolutely, the don't understand," said Mr. Gorbachev. "An administration changes, but the bureaucrats don't. You have to be very sharp. I've had my experience -- 40 years of this."
 Mr. Forbes said a vigorous effort is being made by many Americans on behalf of the stations to show how their broadcasts work to strengthen democratic institutions in their broadcast lands.
 "You've taken the right approach," said Mr. Gorbachev, who ended jamming of Radio Liberty broadcasts in December 1988 and who relied on its broadcasts for news while held under house arrest in his Black Sea vacation dacha during the attempted coup of August 1991.
 Asked by RFE/RL, Inc. President Eugene Pell if he listens to Radio Liberty, Mr. Gorbachev declared, "I listen, I listen -- especially in these... critical times."
 Founded in 1951, Radio Liberty is headquartered with Radio Free Europe in Munich, Germany. The two stations transmit news, current affairs, cultural programs and commentary in 23 languages to Eastern Europe and the newly independent nations of the former Soviet Union. Radio Liberty broadcasts commenced on March 1, 1953. RFE/RL, Inc. employs 1,542 journalists, engineers, and other specialists, a cadre with unparalleled experience in reporting events within the nations of the former Communist empire. Radio Liberty maintains an extensive network of stringers across its broadcast lands, whose news and current events reports supplement the work of staffers and freelance contributors.
 Strong support for continued operation of RFE/RL was echoed by many other persons at the Moscow ceremony, which took place at the Writers Union headquarters in downtown.
 Oleg Kalugin, a former KGB general who is now a leading reformist, told reporters, "Our media face too much censorship for Radio Liberty to stop broadcasting yet," according to Agence France Presse. The agency also quoted Yuri Afanasyev, a leading reform parliamentarian, "It is not sure that the old regime has ended and Radio Liberty is as necessary as ever."
 Dr. Kovalyov, who was imprisoned in the 1970s for his human rights work, said, "It would be wonderful if the U.S. Congress could realize the importance of Radio Liberty and insure its continued work."
 The re-dedication ceremony included an evening of recitation and entertainment by some of Radio Liberty's most famous contributors, including poet Andrei Voznesensky and folk singer/bard Bulat Okudzhava.
 Recent audience surveys show that Radio Liberty dominates the audience for foreign radio broadcasting throughout the former Soviet Union. For example, a recent poll by Mediametrie International Media Survey found that more than three times as many people (178,000 daily weekday average) listen to Radio Liberty as tune in to the next most- listened-to foreign station (Voice of America, 55,000). Total Radio Liberty regular audience in all its broadcast regions is estimated at no less than 18 million in a recent compilation by the RFE/RL, Inc. media and opinion research department.
 -0- 3/21/93 R
 /CONTACT: Anthony Salvia of Radio Liberty Moscow Bureau, 973-0640 or 973-0534; or Terry Shroeder of RFE/RL (Munich), 49-89-2102-3324; or Pat Gates Lynch of RFE/RL (Washington), 202-457-6900/


CO: Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe ST: District of Columbia IN: SU:

CK -- NYSU001 -- 8009 03/22/93 07:15 EST
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