Tag Archives: Censorship

NPR stories expose internet tracking (while shortwave remains immune)

This morning, NPR’s (National Public Radio’s) Weekend edition aired two intriguing stories sharing one strong common thread. First, “CIA Tracks Public Information For The Private Eye“–a look inside the CIA’s Open Source Center:

Secrets: the currency of spies around the world. The rise of social media, hash-tags, forums, blogs and online news sites has revealed a new kind of secret, those hiding in plain sight. The CIA calls all this information “open source” material, and it’s changing the way America’s top spy agency does business.

While you must listen to or read the full story to fully appreciate it, its gist is that this featured department of the CIA essentially uses readily-available public information in order to unlock and predict all sorts of activities they’ve traditionally tracked through covert operations. It’s a paradigm shift in how they’ve traditionally done business. Though not surprising, if you know the nature of the internet, it is fascinating nonetheless.

The second story, “Technological Innovations Help Dictators See All” dealt with the flip side:

As technology gets better–and cheaper–it’s becoming easier for authoritarian governments to watch and record their populations’ every move. John Villasenor of the Brookings Institution joins host Rachel Martin to discuss the phenomenon.

This discussion covers a real and growing problem:  the online Big Brother phenomenon.  Many people feel secure and anonymous online, but are not.  Moreover, as tracking technologies get better, I fear it will give these governments even more control over (and methods to intimidate) their people.

[Incidentally, NPR’s Fresh Air did a story in December 2011 which focused on tracking technologies regimes use–it’s a must-listen, as well.]

I hope international broadcasters are listening to stories like these. It’s more clear than ever that VOA, BBC World Service, Radio Australia, Radio France International, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, and the like still hold the key to getting uncensored information into oppressed countries without bringing harm to listeners, namely, via broadcasts over shortwave radio.

For, as we’ve often said, shortwave radio is impossible to track, works at the speed of light, is everywhere, and requires very simple and affordable technology on behalf of the listener. Let’s keep it alive and well:  burgeoning democracies rely upon it.

Yet more supporting stories for our ongoing series, “Why shortwave radio?

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When shortwave radio is better than the Internet

From Reuters:

Fiji has been plunged into a political crisis after the president reappointed military chief Frank Bainimarama as interim prime minister on Saturday, less than two days after a court ruled his 2006 coup and subsequent government illegal.

Fiji MapBainimarama tightened media censorship on Wednesday and continued to refuse to hold elections before 2014.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. said local technicians had been ordered by the military government to shut down two FM relay stations in the capital Suva and the western sugar town of Nadi.

But ABC said its Radio Australia news programme was still broadcasting on shortwave transmitters.

The military government has asked that Fiji reporters only publish “positive” news, or in their terms, “journalism of hope.” This censorship has also pushed Radio New Zealand International out of Fiji.

Other reports have indicated that the government is now trying to restrict internet news sources and blogs. Internet cafe owners are under threat of being shut down, as well.

UPDATE (21 Nov 2009): The military-installed Fiji government has removed all broadcasting licences and given Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum the absolute power to renew or redistribute them without any compensation to those whose licences are stripped. (Source: The Australian via RNW Media Network)

Radio without borders

ABC RadioWhen people ask whether we need shortwave radio in this internet information age, events like this provide a clear affirmative answer. Once ABC and RNZI were ousted from Fiji, these broadcasters immediately reiterated to Fiji listeners that their programming can be heard all day on shortwave (see schedule below).

And that’s the remarkable thing about shortwave–it penetrates borders without regard to who is in power or to restrictions placed upon local media. Even when the internet is crippled. Can shortwave broadcasts be jammed?  Sure–but it’s not all that easy to do; it’s much more difficult than, say, seizing control of a country’s internet service provider, or (as in the case of Fiji) of their local broadcasters and stations. Plus, jamming usually targets a specific frequency, so if radio listeners find their broadcasts jammed on one frequency, there are often literally dozens of ways around the jam–other frequencies often carry the same or similiar programming from the same or other international broadcasters.

Much of the decline of shortwave radio is attributed to the end of the Cold War. During the Cold War era,  national superpowers were obsessed with piercing borders with their respective messages; since the Cold War ended, that technology is no longer as driven. But as the Fiji story demonstrates, the need is very much ongoing, perhaps even more so, as small countries try out a variety of political options, often exercising this power along the long and twisting road to democratic governance.  Now, shortwave should have a new and broader focus: sending news, music, education and human interest programming to the developing world.

For an example of an organization making a difference through shortwave radio technology, check out Ears To Our World.

ABC Shortwave Broadcast Schedule to Fiji

Local Time 04:00 – 09:00
Frequencies: 5995 7240 7240 9580 9710 11650 11660 11880 12080

Local Time: 09:00 – 12:00
Frequencies: 11650 11660 12080 12080 12080 13630 15230 15515 17785 17795

Local Time: 12:00 – 16:00
Frequencies: 12080 12080 15240 15515 17795

Local Time: 16:00 – 19:00
Frequencies: 12080 12080 15160 15240 15515

Local Time: 19:00 – 04:00
Frequencies: 5995 6020 7240 9580 9590 12080 12080 12080 13630 15160 15240

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