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(BUCHAREST, Romania) Romanian President Trajan Basescu today presented awards to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the BBC in recognition of their decades of broadcasts to Romania, which are scheduled to end on Friday, August 1.

“We are honoring RFE/RL and the BBC not just for their activity during the communist era, when they fought for truth, but also for the important role they played in supporting the birth of a civil society and democratic Romania after the collapse of communism,” said President Basescu. He added that he is both gratified and sad that they are leaving Romania – gratified because it marks the end of Romania’s transition to a stable democracy, and sad because their voices will be missed.

Accepting the award at the ceremony held in Bucharest’s Presidential Palace, RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin dedicated it “to the hundreds of RFE/RL journalists, researchers and analysts who, over the course of nearly 60 years, displayed extraordinary bravery, dedication and commitment to a free and independent press in Romania, often at great risk to themselves and their families.”

Gedmin said it was humbling to hear stories from the President and the assembled Romanian guests about how Radio Free Europe changed people’s lives. “Americans are indebted to our Romanian friends for reminding us what it means to struggle for freedom. Your stories are a lesson for us about the values we cherish but sometimes risk taking for granted.”

For years, RFE/RL’s broadcasts were a thorn in the side of Romania’s communist rulers. In a 2006 address to Parliament, President Basescu paid homage to the RFE/RL journalists who, he said, “fought with altruism and passion for the knowledge and utterance of the truth…Their unforgettable Free Europe broadcasts were the moral conscience of Romanians.”

The RFE/RL Romanian Service began experimental broadcasting on July 14, 1950, and was fully operational by May 1, 1951.

The BBC Romanian Service started broadcasting on September 15, 1939.

Note: After August 1, RFE/RL’s Romanian-language broadcasts to Moldova and the Transdniester region will continue.

Click here for more on the ceremony in Bucharest.