Category Archives: Clandestine

“Go after North Korea with sanctions and short-wave radio”

(Source: Yahoo News)

Key GOP Lawmaker: Go after North Korea with sanctions and short-wave radio

WASHINGTON — House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R.-Calif., called Wednesday for tough new sanctions on Chinese banks that do business with North Korea. Royce also said the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang has been losing its totalitarian grip on a population increasingly getting information from short-wave radio and contraband South Korean movies.

Royce said in an interview with Yahoo News on Sirius XM POTUS Channel 124 that he had met with a top North Korean defector who played up the impact of communications from the outside world as a way to pressure the government of Kim Jong Un.

“He told me that the one thing really shaking the resolve of people across North Korea is the information that’s coming in on two short-wave [radio stations] run by defectors,” Royce said. “They’re telling people what’s really going on in North Korea and in the outside world.”

The defector, Royce recalled, said, “You should help amp that up and get that all across the country.”

Voice of America and Radio Free Asia — descendants of Cold War-era information warfare — currently broadcast 10 hours per day of short- and medium-wave radio into North Korea, according to a congressional aide. And Congress doubled their Korean-language programming for the year ending Oct. 1 to $6 million, where it will stay for the next fiscal year, the aide said.[…]

Continue reading at Yahoo News…

Radio Erena: “a symbolic lifeline” to Eritrea

(Source: The Guardian)

[Radio Erena founder, Biniam Simon, writes:] “You have to understand: Eritrea is completely closed. No information is available there at all, about the outside world or what is going on internally. So if you’re an Eritrean journalist, and you make it to a place where so much information is available, the first thing you think is: why not tell people all this? It was the obvious thing to do.”

[…]The station broadcasts a two-hour programme in Arabic and Tigrinya seven days a week, repeating it several times a day, giving listeners inside Eritrea multiple opportunities to listen (they may do so, in the privacy of their own homes with the shutters closed and the sound turned down, only when electricity is available – which it often isn’t). As well as news about what the regime may be up to, it provides a detailed picture of what is happening to the refugees who are travelling to Europe – when a boat carrying 360 Eritreans capsized off Lampedusa in 2013, a correspondent was immediately dispatched to Italy – as well as features about diaspora success stories, footballers and athletes among them.

It runs smoothly. There is always a lot to tell. Making sure it can be picked up in Eritrea, however, remains a constant struggle. In 2012, the government managed to block it – seemingly unbothered by the fact that in doing so, it also blocked its own television channel (both broadcast on one satellite frequency). It has also successfully jammed it on shortwave, and on at least one occasion has hacked into the Radio Erena website, destroying it completely. “It’s a nonstop challenge,” he says. “We’re constantly fighting them, and it’s getting harder and harder because they are now employing new experts from China and Indonesia.”

But if this is exhausting, it’s also hugely encouraging: “It means that what we’re doing is working. We know this because the government wants us to stop.”[…]

Readers: this is only an excerpt from this excellent article in The Guardian. Click here to read the full article.

Cold War Broadcasting: Two articles feature RFE & Radio Liberty

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andrea Borgnino, who shares the following article from the website Journalism Is Not A Crime:

From Propaganda to Journalism: How Radio Free Europe Pierced the Iron Curtain

The end of the Second World War signaled the beginning of an information war in Europe. As the military alliance between the Soviet Union and its main western allies — the United States and Britain — came to an end, the USSR backed small communist parties that asserted ever-tighter control over much of Eastern Europe.

Speaking in Fulton, Missouri in March 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned of an “Iron Curtain” of totalitarian control sealing off half the continent. His speech heralded the beginning of an ideological “cold war” that would last for more than 40 years, a struggle in which citizens of the eastern camp were only meant to hear one side of the argument.

“We talk about the Iron Curtain as a physical barrier, but it was also an information curtain,” says A. Ross Johnson, a former director of Radio Free Europe and author of a history of RFE and its companion station, Radio Liberty, which broadcast into the Soviet Union. “All the communist regimes saw control of information as a key to their rule.”

Continue reading…

An SWLing Post contributor also recently shared the following PDF article by A. Ross Johnson for the Wilson Center. Here’s the summary:

To Monitor and be Monitored– Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty during the Cold War

Monitoring of Soviet bloc radios was an important input to Radio Free and Radio Liberty broadcasts during the Cold War. RFE and RL also monitored the official print media and interviewed refugees and travelers. Soviet bloc officials in turn monitored RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasts (while jamming their transmissions) to inform themselves and to counter what they viewed as “ideological subversion.” On both sides, monitoring informed media policy.

RFE and RL monitored their radio audiences through listener letters and extensive travel
surveys, while the Communist authorities monitored those audiences through secret police
informants and secret internal polling. Both approaches were second-best efforts at survey
research but in retrospect provided reasonably accurate indicators of the audience for RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasters.

Click here to download the full Wilson Center article as a PDF.

If you’re interested in Cold War broadcasting, I would also encourage you to check out Richard Cummings’ blog, Cold War Radio Vignettes.

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.

North Korea: Information Gathering in the World’s Most Restrictive Nation

If you’ve been an SWLing Post reader for long, you’ll have “met” him virtually; if you’ve been in attendance the Winter SWL Fest recently, you’ll recognize him, may have heard him speak, and perhaps even have met him in person.  I’m speaking, of course, of my good friend, Post contributor, and fellow radio listener, Mark Fahey.

What you might not know about Mark, an intrepid Aussie and mediahound of remarkable facility and clarity, is that he has spent many years (and significant personal resources) compiling a fascinating and invaluable multi-media project in the form of an iBook he’s titled Behind The Curtain, which allows outsiders a frank view directly into North Korean propaganda.

What’s astounding is that this view is from within North Korea: Mark, having traveled to North Korea numerous times (until he made his research public, that is, thus limiting his re-entry), successfully rips back North Korea’s curtain of self-image to reveal, in all its stultified glory, the inner workings––and failings––of the”Hermit Kingdom.”

He’s now very near to publishing  Behind The Curtain, and he’s making available the iBook––as well as all of the media and research he’s curated––for free.

HOPE X

During the summer of 2014 Mark ventured to New York City to present his research at HOPE X (Hackers On Planet Earth). Yesterday, I rediscovered the video of Mark’s presentation at HOPE X on YouTube. If you’re interested in North Korea, propaganda, number stations, SDRs, and/or anthropology of any stripe, you’ll certainly enjoy this presentation, which is truly like no other:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Intrigued?  So am I!

Behind The Curtain doesn’t yet have a formal release date, but stay tuned to the Post for details about its availability, as well as any other presentations or projects on this (or any other subject!) by Mark.

Download Behind The Curtain from the Apple store by clicking here.