Tag Archives: Free Press

DW: South Sudan blocks access to independent websites

(Source: Deutsche Welle)

Internet and mobile phone users in South Sudan are not able to access the websites of at least four independent media outlets. The government has grown increasingly hostile to the media since civil war began in 2013.

The South Sudanese government has blocked access to the websites of Dutch-backed Radio Tamazuj, as well as the popular news blogs Nyamilepedia and Paanluel Wel. Internet users said that the website of the Paris-based Sudan Tribune was also affected on some mobile phone and Wi-Fi networks.

Radio Tamazuj and the Sudan Tribune are reputable sites which have been critical in their coverage of South Sudan’s government, which has grown increasingly hostile towards the media since civil war broke out in 2013.

The government is justified in blocking the websites to protect citizens from outlets that “disseminate subversive material,” South Sudan’s Minister of Authorities Michael Makuei Lueth told the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).[…]

Continue reading at Deutsche Welle online.

Fortunately, the South Sudan communities I’ve worked with through Ears To Our World have access to shortwave radio which is not affected by an Internet block.

No doubt, shortwave radio is the ultimate free speech medium, as it has no regard for national borders, nor for whom is in power (or not in power) at any moment.

Shortwave radio may be a sunsetting technology, but it’s also the most accessible and effective vehicle of the free press. What other technology can thoroughly blanket the globe with news and information yet can also be be received with a simple $20 battery-powered portable device?

This photo was taken in South Sudan, after Ears To Our World distributed radios in this rural community for the fourth year running. We’ve been distributing radios in South Sudan through our partners there since 2009.

Check out these recent comments from the head of DW regarding the importance of international broadcasting. Thanks for the tip, Rich!

Radio Erena “provides a voice for the voiceless”

(Source: Open Democracy)

Eritrean radio station Radio Erena provides a voice for the voiceless

Broadcasting from Paris, Fathi Osman’s Radio Erena challenges the government’s monopoly on truth and champions those who gave their lives for freedom of expression.

Last night turned out to mark a double-celebration for Eritrean journalist Fathi Osman. While the father-of-four nearly let his 51st birthday slip by unnoticed, he certainly couldn’t play down his radio station’s spectacular win at One World Media Awards in London’s BAFTA building.

Radio Erena (‘Our Eritrea’) broadcasts from Paris, where Fathi now lives with his wife and children, having fled the dictatorship five years ago. The station was founded in 2009 by the well-known exiled Eritrean journalist Biniam Simon, with support from Reporters Without Borders. The goal? To offer a lifeline of independent news, information and entertainment for Eritreans both in their homeland and worldwide.

As Fathi held out his hand to shake mine, he noticed his fingers were stained inky blue. “Ah, you can tell I’m a writer,” he observed with a smile. Currently Radio Erena’s Assistant Project Manager, in the past Fathi worked variously as a journalist and diplomat before he left the Eritrean embassy in Riyadh to seek safety in France. “I had developed ideas that the government did not accept,” he explained, “and you know, with these kinds of conflicts, in the end you will meet trouble.”

Fathi’s family was among more than 4,000 Eritreans who flee each month. And is it any wonder, given the UN June 2016 report that the regime has been responsible for crimes against humanity since 1991? Known globally as a predator of press freedom, President Isaias Afewerki has led Eritrea to be ranked consistently as the very lowest of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, though in 2017 the regime came second-last as North Korea deteriorated even further.

Afewerki’s purges in September 2001 ended Eritrea’s free press – by now, seven of the 11 journalists arrested at that point have died in detention. This year at least 15 journalists are believed to be detained without charge or trial. Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean citizen who had returned to Eritrea to open Setit – the first independent newspaper there, has not once talked to a lawyer in 16 years of imprisonment. His fate is unclear.

Far from having deterred the four journalists based in Radio Erena’s newsroom (as well as their 25 or so correspondents worldwide), these appalling abuses have driven them to pour every effort into remedying the crackdown. The station broadcasts in Tigrinya and Arabic by satellite and short wave – and is available online or via a mobile phone app.

“Within the whole of Eritrea there’s only one radio station, one newspaper,” Fathi explained. “That means the ‘truth’ is dominated by the government. Radio Erena is working to counter that. We do everything, from exposing news that the government doesn’t want people to know, to hosting shows for singers and writers – and raising awareness of human rights is very important to us.”[…]

Continue reading the full article on Open Democracy’s website. 

Note: Radio Erena can be heard on 11,965 kHz between 1700-1800 UTC. They broadcast from Kostinbrod in Sofia, Bulgaria with 50 KW.

Shortwave Radio Recordings: Radio Romania International

Like a lot of shortwave radio listeners, since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed tuning my radio to parts of the world where events are unfolding.  There’s something tangible–something that is transportive–when you listen to a news coming directly from the source, on air and originating from halfway across the planet.

I believe, listening to government broadcasters, you get a much better picture of what is actually happening. For example, sometimes the broadcaster devotes the whole news hour to an important event, or (perhaps even more telling!) doesn’t mention anything at all! The Voice of Turkey comes to mind as a recent example.

Yesterday evening, I tuned to Radio Romania International–one of my favorite little international broadcasters.

If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that there have been six consecutive days of massive protests to stop a Romanian law that would have eased corruption penalties. This is the sort of thing a lot of broadcasters– being the mouthpiece for their current administration or ruling party–would either ignore or bury in their news report.

I was happy to hear that RRI at least featured the protest as their very first news item.

This recording was made on 5,960 kHz starting at 0100 UTC on February 06, 2017. Receiver used was a WinRadio Excalibur with a large horizontal delta loop antenna here in North Carolina. The following recording includes a few minutes of the RRI interval signal. Enjoy:

Click here to download as an MP3.

The Outernet Lantern: a portable wireless library

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The Outernet Lantern.

One project I have been following very closely since its debut is Outernet: a satellite-based information retrieval system that promotes free–and anonymous–access to information. In a sense, it’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to shortwave radio in the digital realm, in terms of information access.

I first mentioned Outernet nine months ago; since then, it appears to have met or exceeded all of its development goals.

Yesterday, I received an email from the Outernet campaign regarding a product they have in development called “Lantern.” Outernet describes Lantern thus:

Lantern is an anonymous portable library that constantly receives free data from space.

[…]Lantern continuously receives radio waves broadcast by Outernet from space. Lantern turns the signal into digital files, like webpages, news articles, ebooks, videos, and music. Lantern can receive and store any type of digital file on its internal drive. To view the content stored in Lantern, turn on the Wi-Fi hotspot and connect to Lantern with any Wi-Fi enabled device. All you need is a browser…Here is a quick overview of how the system works:

1. Outernet continuously broadcasts data from space. Most of what we broadcast is decided by you. The rest is either part of our Core Archive (critical content, like educational material or disaster updates) or Sponsored Content. In every case, we tell you how the content got there. If it’s sponsored, we tell you who paid for it.

2. Lantern connects to the satellite signal. A receiver, such as Lantern, can be bought from Outernet, or we’ll show you how to build one yourself. Lantern can receive numerous types of signals from various satellites and frequencies. Lantern can be plugged into a satellite dish to receive data at an even faster rate (200 MB/day and up).

3. Connect your Wi-Fi enabled device to Lantern. Lantern’s Wi-Fi hotspot allows anyone with a computer, tablet, or phone to interact with Lantern’s content. Everything can be viewed in a browser, just like the Internet, except this is an “offline” version.”

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With ETOW in mind, I’ve already pre-ordered a Lantern, supporting the project via IndieGoGo.  During the first 24 hours of the campaign, which started yesterday, the cost of a Lantern is $89 US.

If this interests you, too, watch the following video about Lantern and consider supporting the project at IndieGoGo:

Radio Thailand: no mention of military coup

RadioThailand_LogoThis morning, I was able to catch the first thirteen minutes of Radio Thailand‘s English language service on 9,390 kHz shortwave. I was curious if RT would mention the Thailand military coup or at least broadcast a sanctioned message from the military authorities. Yet I heard no mention of the coup whatsoever. And why not? Yesterday, General Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered all domestic TV and radio outlets to halt normal broadcasting and only include content the military provides. 

I was only able to record the first 13 minutes of the RT evening news as we had a powerful thunderstorm that forced me to unplug my external antenna. You’ll note the static crashes in the recording.  

The format sounds like a typical RT broadcast, save the lack of national news; instead, the hosts jump straight into global news, mentioning Nigeria, the Philippians, and the economy. Here’s the recording:

As a contrast, here is a recording SRAA contributor, Frank, made of Radio Thailand on May 14th, prior to the coup:

It will be interesting to hear how the nature and content of RT’s news changes with time while the country is under martial law.