Best Reporting From Abroad Daily newspaper or wire service (spot news) 1968


Excerpt from the
1969 Dateline for The Best Reporting From Abroad Daily
Newspaper Or Wire Service (spot news) Award 1968:

Class 1

Best Daily Newspaper Or Wire
Service Reporting From Abroad.

Peter Rehak of the Associated Press was the
right man in the right place, when Soviet troops crossed the border of Czechoslovakia
last August 20 while
a collaborator cut off the microphones of the announcers on Radio Prague. While
the black-out lasted, the population remained unaware of what was happening.

Rehak, who was born in Bratislava in 1936 speaks
Czech, Slovak, French and German, was in the Alcron hotel in Prague when the
radio receiving sets went dead. He sensed immediately that some ominous
development was occurring in the politically disturbing situation of the

From his familiarity with the communication
systems in Prague, he recognize the possibility that the communists who had
silenced Radio Prague might have forgotten to throw the switch also on
auxiliary public-address system through which announcements of general
interests are “piped” into the city’s restaurants and other meeting
places. He’s hunch was correct.

Remembering that one such outlet was available
in the hotel’s garage, he slipped into that area listen to the broadcast in
Czech, revealing that Soviet forces were already inside the country, and that
the population was asked to offer no resistance. How he managed to get out the
news flash that apprised the rest of the world of the development has not been
revealed, but his exclusive was one hour ahead of all other media in reaching
the outside.

In Washington concurrently, Secretary of State
Dean Rusk was testifying before the Democratic platform committee, when he was
handed a copy of the AP bulletin. The Secretary passed it to the committee chairman,
representative Hale Boggs of Louisiana – who read it into the open microphone.

His world beat led to his ouster from Czechoslovakia,
the Government there having refused to renew his visa when it expired in
September. He was reassigned the AP bureau in Bonn, but has since been
transferred to Vienna, to strengthen the coverage of Eastern European affairs.

Rehak’s reports from Prague about the Czech
struggle against Soviet domination, and about the invasion, won for him the
1968 award of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association for outstanding
work by a staff member at the wire service, in addition to the OPC distinction.

While still a boy, Rehak was taken to Canada by
his family and grew up there. He is an alumnus of McGill University, and joined
the Associated Press in Frankfort in 1962 after having worked for the Windsor (Ont.)
Star, the Vancouver  (B.C.) sun and the Canadian Press.


He is the fifth correspondent in history of the OPC awards to be named
winner two categories in one year – the other being the esteemed OPC George
Polk Memorial award.