Category Archives: Clandestine

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.

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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.

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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.

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Radio Maubere: clandestine radio in occupied East Timor

Radio-Dial-Blurred-Dark

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Brennan, who writes:

Your readers may be interested in this article detailing a clandestine radio station that was set up between the Fretlin rebels in East Timor (now Timor Leste) and supporters based in Darwin where I live. The Fretlin rebels fought against the Indonesian occupation until the country’s independence in 2002. In the 1970s this was the only method of obtaining information on the brutal repression of the Timorese people by the Indonesian dictatorship

The man featured in the article, Brian Manning Snr., who died a couple years ago was a well known activist and trade unionist in the Northern Territory. He was also very involved in the campaign for Aboriginal workers to receive equal pay and conditions in the 1960s. This campaign was instrumental in raising the profile of the Aboriginal land rights movement in Australia. Brian Manning Jr. Is a good friend of mine.

(Source: ABC News)

If someone was to make an Australian version of Forrest Gump, they might look to Brian Manning’s life story for inspiration.

In 1966, he helped the Gurindji strikers in the Wave Hill walk-off. When Cyclone Tracy hit his hometown of Darwin, police commandeered his truck to collect dead bodies. Months later, he became involved in possibly the most important mission of his life.

That mission was Radio Maubere: an underground radio link that operated between Darwin and occupied East Timor during the 70s and 80s.

For many years, it was the only link the Timorese had with the outside world.

“Dad felt very strongly that these people needed to be supported in their struggle,” his son, Brian Manning Jr, said.

“So with a few other people, they got together and formed this radio operation.

“It was vital. There’s no doubt that the Indonesians were in there to systematically reduce the population by any means necessary.

“So these people were just killing people, and these stories had to get out.”

[…]As the years went on, and the list of confiscated radio transmitters grew longer and Manning’s tricks became more and more creative.

“They had a few decoy vehicles. And they had a few decoy radios. And they had people rendezvous with them in the bush in certain areas,” Brian Manning Jr said.

Often one person would set up the transmitter, another would come along and use it, and a third would arrive to pack it up and transport it out of danger.

[…]The broadcasters even devised their own coded language to communicate top secret information, remembers one of the group’s members, Robert Wesley-Smith.

“They each had a book, and the code would direct them to a page or something. It was very slow … but it was a great adventure,” Mr Wesley-Smith said.

Whatever problems Manning and his crew had in Australia were nothing compared to the dangers faced by those operating on the other end, where gunshots could sometimes be heard in the background.

There was a constant need to get new transmitters into the country, and an engineer from Sydney came up with an ingenious method for avoiding detection.

“It now fell to the resourcefulness of Andrew, who created a transmitter out of a ghetto blaster,” Manning wrote in his book.[…]

Click here to read the full article.

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Radio South Atlantic: recording of a short-lived clandestine radio station

Crosley-Dial-BlackAndWhite

In reply to our recent post about Radio Atlantico del Sur, SWLing Post contributor, Jonathan Marks, adds:

Radio South Atlantic was a short-lived clandestine radio station started by the UK Ministry of Defence with programmes aimed at Argentine troops on the Falkland islands. This programme was broadcast from a transmitter on Ascension Island which was temporarily taken away from BBC World Service.

The Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas), also known as the Falklands Conflict, Falklands Crisis and the Guerra del Atlántico Sur (Spanish for “South Atlantic War”), was a ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over two British overseas territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It began on Friday 2 April 1982 when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands (and, the following day, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands) in an attempt to establish the sovereignty it had long claimed over them.

On 5 April, the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.

This is a studio copy of Radio South Atlantic. In May 1982, the British government decided to set up a Spanish language radio station targeting Argentine troops. This was probably in response to an Argentine radio station (nicknamed Argentine Annie by the UK press) which appeared on shortwave some weeks earlier using the Beatles theme “Yesterday” as a signature tune.

I was editing the Media Network programme at the time. We could hear Radio South Atlantic in Hilversum – but the signal was very weak. So I rang the British embassy in the Hague and asked if it would be possible to get a studio copy of the programme to use in a documentary feature we were making. A few days later, a courier riding a large motorbike arrived at RN’s reception and asked for me. I went down to the front-desk to sign for the tape. “But you can’t keep this tape. You can only listen to it” was the message from guy in the helmet. “I have to take it back to the Hague in about half an hour”. I said I’d look for an empty studio, gave the guy a large coffee and wandered casually round the corner. Then I made a mad dash to the fast copy-room used to make tape copies of RNW transcription programmes for other radio stations. It had a machine that could copy tapes at around 8 times faster than normal. Luckily, Jos, the guy in charge, saw my challenge, set up the machine immediately and 15 minutes later I was back in reception to return the tape to the messanger. And I had a copy.

It seems the British dropped leaflets over the Falklands to try and spread the word that this shortwave radio station existed. And we later analysed the programme. It was classic Sefton Delmer (Black Propaganda), although rather poorly presented. Bit like calling up Vera Lynne if the British had a dispute with France.

But this is one of the few surviving recordings of Radio South Atlantic. You be the judge of how effective it all was. http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/radio-south-atlantic-may-1992

Click here to read Jonathan’s full post about Radio South Atlantic and listen to the recording on his website.

This is an amazing recording, Jonathan.  I’ll admit that I had never heard of Radio South Atlantic before and never knew a UK-supported clandestine station was on the air during The Falklands War/Guerra de las Malvinas.

Thanks for the excellent history lesson and your own (clandestine) recording!

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Warsan Radio 7750 kHz Baydhabo Somalia; on the Sony ICF-2001D telescopic antenna

Somalia

Hi there, great to hear this new station broadcasting from Somalia, during an early evening DX’pedition at my usual spot – a local Oxfordshire wood! Even better to hear it with just the telescopic antenna!

The ICF-2001D is renown for being extremely well ‘tuned’ to it’s own telescopic and this has been demonstrated many times over the past year or so that I’ve been using it.  This signal from Somalia was recorded on 08/08/16 at 19:15 hrs UTC using just the ‘whip’. Please click on the image below to access the reception video.

Warsan

Alternatively click here to watch the reception video on Oxford Shortwave Log

I have another video of the same signal which I will upload soon, demonstrating  reception with a 50 metre longwre and the ICF2001D. Until then, I wish you all excellent DX!

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

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Update: Cold War Clandestine Radio from Greece

HalliDial

Saturday, I published a post referencing Cold War Clandestine Radio from Greece with links to Richard Cummings’ excellent website Cold War Radio Vignettes.

My post was written some time earlier and scheduled to publish Saturday while I was traveling. Unfortunately, the Cold War Radio Vignettes articles I had linked to were removed prior to Saturday.

I contacted Richard Cummings who has kindly assembled a small PDF booklet with the text from all of the posts I had referenced and is allowing me to share it here on the SWLing Post.

Richard asks that if any Post readers have information about these clandestine broadcasts and is willing to share it with him, he would me most thankful. His contact information is on the front page of the PDF.

Click here to download the PDF booklet.

Again, many thanks to Richard Cummings for making this free PDF booklet available to us!

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