Tag Archives: Free Press

Taiwanese man faces charges for broadcasting uncensored news to listeners in China

(Source: Radio Free Asia)

A Taiwanese businessman is scheduled to face trial in Thailand’s northern Chiang Mai city next week on charges that he illegally hosted a radio station that broadcast uncensored news to listeners in China, amid claims that Beijing pressured Thai authorities to shut down the station.

The June 19-20 hearing at the Chiang Mai provincial court comes more than five months after Chiang Yung-hsin, 52, was indicted on charges of setting up the station without a permit for Sound of Hope (SOH), a San Francisco-based radio network that was founded by Falun Gong, a religious movement banned in China, according to court documents.

Chiang, who could be jailed for up to five years if convicted, denies the charges, saying the broadcasting facility was set up by his tenants.

“I did not set up any radio station, but friends used the premises I rented to set up transmitters,” Chiang told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, in a brief interview in Bangkok through an assistant while denying the charges against him.

Chiang’s attorney was not available for comment. Prosecutors and Chiang’s defense team are scheduled to present their cases over the two-day hearing.

Sound of Hope Radio is a public network that broadcasts news to China through shortwave radio signals in nearby countries, spokesman Frank Lee said.

Lee alleged that the Thai government pressured Chiang, who was not aided by a translator, to sign documents pleading guilty at the time of his arrest. He also alleged that Thai officials were pressured by the Chinese government.

“Giving in to the pressure from Beijing to suppress free press is not good for Thailand and its people,” Lee told BenarNews.

“Mr. Chiang is a volunteer for SOH, he didn’t do this for his own gain. We urge the Thai government to free Mr. Chiang so that he can return to Taiwan to his wife and two children.”

But Thai officials flatly rejected the claims.

“Thai law enforcement arrested Chiang without any pressure from the Chinese,” a Thai security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told BenarNews.

In August 2018, officials shut down the shortwave radio station broadcasting from property that Chiang rented in Chiang Mai, and arrested him on Nov. 22, 2018. He was released on bail three days later but ordered to remain in Thailand.

Police filed the charges against Chiang alleging that he violated the Radio Communications Act and the Broadcasting and Television Business Act, both of which carry a sentence of up to five years if convicted because he did not have the necessary permission or license to operate, according to various sources.

“The Thai justice system is handling this case,” Busadee Santipitaks, spokeswoman for the ministry of foreign affairs, told BenarNews when asked for comment.

Protests against prosecution

In January, press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) spoke out against Chiang’s arrest.

“This totally unjustified arrest deals a new blow to the freedom to inform in Thailand and penalizes Chinese listeners who count on this radio station for information that circumvents censorship,” RSF said in a news release at the time.

“We call on the Thai authorities to stop abetting Beijing’s operations against opposition media outlets and to drop charges against Chiang.”

RSF said it has learned that the Chinese government pressured the Thai authorities to shut down the radio station.

Paris-based RSF said Thai officials took the action after receiving a complaint from a “mysterious witness” who claimed to have seen a 30-meter (100-foot) antenna being erected at the site.

SOH insisted that no antenna was constructed because it is not needed for shortwave broadcasting and denied any involvement in “illegal broadcasting,” according to RSF.

U.S.-based Freedom House had also spoken out against Chiang’s arrest. It said the Thai government took advantage of his limited knowledge of the language and “deceived Chiang into what amounted to signing a confession.”

“This is not the first time Beijing has pressured Asian governments to crack down on SOH broadcasts,” Freedom House had said in a recent update of press freedom news related to China published on its website. “In 2011, two men in Vietnam were jailed for broadcasting content into China, and Indonesian authorities attempted to shut down SOH affiliate Radio Era-baru, which transmitted programming to local Chinese communities in Southeast Asia.”

Lee said the SOH broadcasts were needed.

“SOH believes shortwave broadcasting to China is very critical to the people in there to learn about truthful and accurate news in China and around the world,” Lee said. “The Chinese communist regime constantly censors news on its human rights violations, religious persecution and objective news from around the world.”

Founded in 1992 in China’s northeast, the Falun Gong spiritual movement gained increasing influence as the fastest growing religion in the PRC and overseas over the next seven years. In 1999 the Chinese government at the orders of then President Jiang Zemin began a harsh and sometimes deadly crackdown on the sect, dragging practitioners from their homes and sending them to detention centers.

Outside of China, the movement was considered harmless and continued to flourish. It is often cited as an example of religious persecution in China, with practitioners and allied religious freedom advocates holding protests in major cities to bring attention to the situation faced by Falun Gong believers in the PRC.

Click here to read the full story at RFA News.

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“Burundi to suspend BBC and VOA radio broadcasts”

(Source: The Independent via Mike Hansgen)

Nairobi, Kenya | AFP | Burundi’s press regulator on Friday said it was suspending broadcasts by the BBC and Voice of America (VOA) by local radio stations ahead of a constitutional referendum on May 17.

The head of Burundi’s National Communications Council told journalists in the capital Bujumbura that a six-month ban would come into force on Monday.

Karenga Ramadhani accused the BBC and VOA of “breaches of the law governing the press and ethics”.

The BBC, he said, “damaged the reputation” of President Pierre Nkurunziza during a discussion programme and had “ignored” previous warnings.

Burundi’s government earlier this week urged the regulator to “take action” against the BBC which it accused of spreading “incendiary statements… hatred and subversion”.

VOA is accused of spreading “very tendentious” information and hiring a journalist “sought by Burundian justice”.

French broadcaster RFI also received a warning for disseminating “tendentious and misleading” information.[…]

Click here to read the full article at The Independent.

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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!

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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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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.

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