Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and political cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, who shares the following guest post:
Carlos Latuff at Catacumba Park in Rio de Janeiro, monitoring Ethiopian broadcasts.
ETHIOPIA: A WAR THROUGH RADIO
by Carlos Latuff, special for The SWLing Post
We just entered 2022 and the civil war in Ethiopia has already completed 1 year. On the one hand we have the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) guerrillas from northern Ethiopia and its allies, and on the other hand we have the armed forces of Ethiopian government and its allies. The dead are piling up, accusations of war crimes from both sides, local and international political interests at stake, and no perspective for a peaceful solution. Without going into the reasons for this new war in Ethiopian territory, I’d like to focus on the use of radio waves by both parties of this conflict.
I monitored shortwave broadcasts from Ethiopia and to Ethiopia between October 21, 2021 and January 4, 2022. The receivers were Tecsun PL-606 and XHDATA D-808, using both the telescopic antenna and a long wire. In all cases, listening was carried out in Brazilian cities.
Carlos at Catacumba Park monitoring and recording clandestine Ethiopian broadcasts.
Hi everyone! Paul Walker here, some of you may know me through various hobby circles via email and Facebook groups. I used to post quite regularly when I lived in Galena Alaska back in 2016 and 2017. I’m back in Alaska again, working as the Program Director for KSKO 89.5 and it’s half a dozen or so repeaters in the interior.
Back on Monday May 10th at 0601UTC here in McGrath, Alaska I ran across an unknown station on 15220kHz. The man was talking in African accented English but would randomly start talking in another language, which I at the time thought may have been French but very well could’ve been Swahili or some other language spoken in Uganda, I’m not a language expert. (audio below)
The man was going on and on about Uganda, “our brothers, our struggle, the government”. The audio cut out a few times for several seconds a time, seemingly because this was a live broadcast being fed live over the internet from whatever studio location he was at to whatever transmitter site was being used.
Around 0623UTC, the host sounded like he put his phone up to the microphone and played a Ugandan song of some sort from his phone. After that was over, two studio quality songs played.. The Spice Girls “2 Become 1” and Gabriel Kelly’s “Faith”. Those songs sounded like they were being played out from the transmitter site, not from a computer over the internet. They were clear with no audio hiccups. The transmitter went off around 0629/0630UTC.
A friend I was chatting with as we tried to figure out what this was said he had a decent signal on a Kuwaiti SDR and based on some triangulation work using other SDR, it seemed this was coming from Europe, suggesting Nauen or Lampertheim.
The man reappeared on 15170kHz at 1500UTC on Friday May 14th. I haven’t even been able to try and figure out a schedule. Evenings one day and mornings the next. I pretty regularly scan the dials and have only noticed him these two times, with thanks to Mauno Ritola in the WRTH Facebook group for the spotting of him on 15170khz.
I do have audio of the 15220 broadcast at this link:
I would love to know who this is, what transmitter site they’re broadcasting from and any contact information. A google search using the phrase “Uganda Clandestine Shortwave” came up with one hit, Radio Lead Africa and someone in the ODXA email group suggested Radio Munansi.
For anyone wondering, I’m using a Tecsun PL880 with a 8D battery powered DXE PreAmp and 2 Doxytronics tunable loops.. The cross that supports the antenna is sitting a few inches into 5 foot tall 2 inch wide PVC pipe which is then put in a trash can and tote container and filled with sand. Gotta use what I have on hand here in rural Alaska.
Radio Waves: Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio
Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers. To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Ron, Andrea Borgnino, and Tracy Wood for the following tips:
Non-official radio stations always attracted shortwave listeners who call them “clandestines”, follwing a mixture of mis-understanding and romanticism. The range of this class of stations is remarkably wide. Nowadays, the majority of them is renting time from major transmission centres like Nauen/Germany, Issoudun/France or Toshkent/Uzbekistan.
As all media, they are put into service to influence people and to sell something by propaganda. The difference between an official broadcaster, like Voice of America, and a “clandestine” like North Korea Reform Radio is not palpable – both are financed by the U.S. Congress.
With most broadcasters transmitting on a scale between facts (“white” – nearly only the BBC) and sheer disinformation (“black”), clandestines are placed on the darker third of this range. The separation between “clandestine” and “official” is rather artificial. There simply is no difference between e.g. the official World Harvest Radio and the clandestine Voice of Wilderness, both religious brodcasters, funded by Cornerstone Ministries International/USA – to take just two religious stations.
Today’s activity of clandestines is concentrated on Africa and Asia with especially taking countries like North Korea, China, Eritrea and Sudan into focus.[…]
In anticipation of its upcoming move, the FCC has adopted a new FCC seal. The redesigned seal is the product of an agency-wide contest that solicited proposals from employees and contractors. The winning design, submitted by Umasankar Arumugam, was selected by a vote of the agency’s employees and contractors.
The revised design incorporates several elements: communications technologies currently transforming our world; four stars on the outer seal border, drawing from the legacy of the predecessor Federal Radio Commission seal; 18 stars on the shield, recognizing the current number of bureaus and offices; and the eagle and shield, identifying the FCC as a federal government agency.[…]
The notion of WNYC becoming the flagship station of a non-commercial network of cultural stations was first publicly articulated by Mayor La Guardia at the launching of the station’s new WPA-built transmitter facility in Greenpoint, Brooklyn on October 31, 1937. La Guardia envisioned a non-commercial/educational radio network connected via shortwave rather than expensive landlines leased by AT&T, but the FCC prohibited interstation communication by means other than wire when wire is available. At the ceremony La Guardia sharply criticized the FCC prohibition: “That is just as nonsensical and as unreasonable as to say that one isn’t permitted to fly from here to Chicago because there are railroads going from here to Chicago. Of course, all this is very good for the New York Telephone Company, but it is not so hot for us.”[…]
New RAC membership renewal procedures (RAC via Southgate ARC)
On behalf of Radio Amateurs of Canada, I would like to thank you for your continued support of Amateur Radio in Canada and internationally.
Your membership has helped RAC in its two primary objectives: to support and promote Amateur Radio in Canada and internationally; and to provide valuable programs and services to RAC members (see below).
As a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the RAC Head Office in Ottawa has been closed temporarily and we are no longer able to send out membership renewal notices by mail and we will be sending out email notices instead.
We would appreciate it if you would please watch for these messages in your inbox and also in your junk folders – this is especially true if you have Outlook or Hotmail email addresses.
In addition, you can assist us by checking to see when your membership will expire by logging on to the RAC website and going to the “My Membership” webpage (https://www.rac.ca/my-membership/). You can also find it on the mailing label of the paper version of The Canadian Amateur magazine or by calling the RAC office as described below.
If you need to renew your membership you can do so by using one of the following options:
Online: by completing the online renewal form (or by clicking on the “Join Radio Amateurs of Canada” logo on the top right of the RAC website). Payments must be made by credit card or by PayPal.
By phone: by calling 877-273-8304 from 10 am to 4 pm EST/EDT, Monday through Friday (except statutory holidays). You may pay by credit card or you may send a cheque for the appropriate amount to the RAC head office.
By mail: if you prefer to have your renewal form processed via standard mail, you can download an application for your region from the Membership Renewals webpage and mail it to the RAC Office.
For those who follow numbers stations or, like me, enjoy seeing articles about numbers stations, below are a few paragraphs from a recent article in Radio Worldby author James Careless:
“6-7-9-2-6. 5-6-9-9-0.” Tune across the shortwave bands (above AM/MW), and chances are you will come across a “numbers station.” There’s no programming to speak of; just a mechanical-sounding voice (male or female) methodically announcing seemingly random groups of single digit numbers for minutes on end.
Congratulations! You are now officially a spy-catcher, to the extent that you may have tuned into a spy agency’s “numbers station” transmitting one-way instructions to their minions worldwide.
Numbers stations are unidentified radio broadcasts that consist usually of a mechanical voice “reading out strings of seemingly random numbers,” explained Lewis Bush, author of “Shadows of the State” a new history of numbers stations and the spies who run them. “These are sometimes accompanied by music, tones or other sound effects.” He said. “There are also related stations broadcasting in Morse Code and digital modes.”
The article goes into some of the history of numbers stations, but also talks about modern stations from all over the world. A worthwhile read for those so interested!
[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.”[…]
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.”[…]
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.
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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