Tag Archives: Free Speech

“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…

RFA suspends in-country operations in Cambodia

(Source: Radio Free Asia)

WASHINGTON – Libby Liu, President of Radio Free Asia (RFA), today issued the following statement about RFA’s decision to suspend in-country operations in Cambodia:

After almost 20 years of bringing the Cambodian people independent, reliable and trustworthy news and information from inside the country, Radio Free Asia has regrettably been forced to close its Phnom Penh bureau. The government’s relentless crackdown on independent voices in recent weeks has made it impossible to keep the bureau open while guaranteeing the integrity of RFA’s journalistic mission.

It has become increasingly apparent that Prime Minister Hun Sun has no intention of allowing free media to continue operating inside the country ahead of the 2018 elections. The government has instead seized on every opportunity to go after critics, political opponents, NGOs, and independent media committed to reporting the truth. Using a thin pretext of tax and administrative violations, authorities have closed independent radio stations carrying RFA, Voice of America, and Voice of Democracy. The government has forced The Cambodia Daily newspaper to close due to an extreme and punitive retroactive tax bill and has kept its manager, Mr. Steele, from leaving the country under threat of criminal charges. Authorities have been employing these same tactics against RFA, despite our full cooperation at every step to comply with all requests and our sincere efforts to register as a licensed media company. Nevertheless, they have resorted to false statements and increasingly threatening and intimidating rhetoric about RFA, made mostly through leaked documents on government mouthpiece media and random statements from different ministries.

Facing down intimidation is nothing new for RFA. Our journalists and commentators have been threatened, jailed, and forced to leave the country to avoid arrest or worse. But recent developments have intensified to an unprecedented level, as Cambodia’s ruling party shamelessly seeks to remove any obstacle or influence standing in its way of achieving absolute power.

Through the years, Cambodian journalists working for RFA have risked their lives to report on corruption, illegal logging, forced evictions, bribery, labor disputes, and rights abuses, among other important stories largely ignored by state-controlled media. Their hard work has helped to build the foundation of RFA’s investigative, in-depth journalism from the ground up and has earned us the trust of the Cambodian people — to whom we also owe our heartfelt gratitude. The sacrifice and support of staff and audience alike reinforces the need for RFA to keep Cambodia’s citizens informed, so they possess a more complete and accurate picture of what’s happening in their neighborhoods, their towns, and their villages. We hope that the government will not persecute the individual brave Cambodians who worked with us in retaliation for RFA’s efforts to bring reliable free press to their countrymen and women.

RFA stands resolved to stay true to its vital mission in Cambodia, now more than ever, to go forward shining a light even in the darkest of hours. RFA will keep reporting on the most important and censored issues and events inside the country — and we will continue to broadcast and publish our programs, reports and content on shortwave radio, social media, and on our website.

As history has shown, dictators may rise and force their will on nations, but the people will always seek truth in pursuit of freedom.

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!

Newsweek: Can radio turn the tide in Syria?

Syria_(orthographic_projection)Thanks to The Professor for sharing this brilliant article by Mike Giglio in The Daily Beast:

“Twenty minutes—this was the small window of time that Majid (not his real name) usually gave himself to broadcast his radio dispatches and then flee. The Syrian was making a name for himself as a bold, young journalist in Damascus, venturing into contested neighborhoods in the capital’s war-torn suburbs to deliver his reports. The broadcasts were low tech and old-fashioned, produced for an upstart radio station called Al-Watan FM, or “The Homeland FM,” and went out on the local airwaves, crackling into a sphere otherwise tightly controlled by the regime. Any Damascus resident scanning the dial could tune in.

It was dangerous work. Pushing into the capital’s FM frequencies meant transmitting an easy-to-track signal from within the city. Government soldiers or regime thugs often came looking for Majid when he went on the air, so he tried to be quick—setting up, going live, then packing up and disappearing within the span of 20 minutes.”[]

Continue reading the full article in Newsweek’s The Daily Beast online.

Cambodia bans foreign radio in advance of elections

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

(Source: Radio Free Asia)

The Cambodian government has ordered local radio stations to stop broadcasting foreign programs ahead of general elections in a move widely seen as a major setback to media freedom in the country and aimed at stifling the voice of the opposition.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration on Tuesday asked all FM stations to cease rebroadcasting Khmer-language radio programs by foreign broadcasters in the run-up to the July 28 elections, saying the move was aimed at “forbidding” foreigners in Cambodia from campaigning for any group in the polls.

Local stations who flout the order face legal action.

“Upon receiving this directive, I would like to ask that all the directors of FM station to implement it accordingly,” acting Information Minister Ouk Pratna said in issuing the order.”If any station doesn’t follow this directive, the Ministry of Information will take legal action against it according to the existing law.”

Khmer programs of at least three foreign broadcasters—U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA), as well as Radio Australia—will be barred from being aired under the directive.

Three other foreign broadcasters—the state-run Voice of Vietnam and China Radio International and French public radio station RFI—will not be affected as they operate their own stations in Cambodia.

Move ‘questions legitimacy’ of elections

The U.S. government immediately lodged a protest with the Cambodian authorities over the directive, saying it will throw in doubt the legitimacy of the elections, in which Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is widely expected to win, enabling him to extend his 28 years in power.

The CPP has won the last two polls by a landslide despite allegations of fraud and election irregularities.

“The directive is a flagrant infringement on freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and is yet another incident that starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process,” John Simmons, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said in a statement.

“While Royal Government officials at the highest levels have publicly expressed an intention to conduct free and fair elections, these media restrictions, and other efforts to limit freedom of expression, will seriously call into question the legitimacy of the electoral process,” he said.

About 10 local FM stations carry Khmer programs by RFA, which also broadcasts on shortwave in Cambodia.

RFA said in a statement that it “remains committed to bringing objective, accurate, and balanced election coverage to the people of Cambodia at this critical time” and vowed that it “will do so on every delivery platform available.”

“The Ministry of Information’s directive doesn’t stem from complaints of programming irregularities, but rather is a blatant strategy to silence the types of disparate and varied voices that characterize an open and free society,” it said.

Beehive Radio

Mam Sonando, a Cambodian activist who runs the independent Beehive Radio and an ardent critic of Hun Sen’s administration, called the ban “illegal” and “childish” but added that he would comply with the order.

He said the order would hurt political parties scrambling to convey their messages to the people ahead of the elections.

Mam Sonando, who owns Beehive Radio, told RFA earlier this week that the Information Ministry is restricting overseas groups from buying airtime at Beehive Radio and had turned down requests to set up relay stations to beam to the provinces.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was puzzled by the Cambodian government’s suggestion of foreign meddling in the elections.

“There has been no history in Cambodia of foreigners participating on a partisan basis in elections,” said Brad Adams, executive director of Asia Division. “What this is really about is they don’t want foreigners coming in and observing the elections and then doing their job independently and professionally and then reporting their results.”

He said the Hun Sen government was trying to prevent reporting of events leading up to the elections.

“It’s about the fact that they know the elections are going to be very poor—they are structurally poor, they are poor in implementation and poor in practice and they don’t want this reported,” Adams said.

“The problem is that the world doesn’t work like that anymore. They can’t keep the eyes and ears of the world out. So, the reality is going to be reported.”

The Cambodian government has ordered local radio stations to stop broadcasting foreign programs ahead of general elections in a move widely seen as a major setback to media freedom in the country and aimed at stifling the voice of the opposition.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration on Tuesday asked all FM stations to cease rebroadcasting Khmer-language radio programs by foreign broadcasters in the run-up to the July 28 elections, saying the move was aimed at “forbidding” foreigners in Cambodia from campaigning for any group in the polls.

Local stations who flout the order face legal action.

“Upon receiving this directive, I would like to ask that all the directors of FM station to implement it accordingly,” acting Information Minister Ouk Pratna said in issuing the order.”If any station doesn’t follow this directive, the Ministry of Information will take legal action against it according to the existing law.”

Khmer programs of at least three foreign broadcasters—U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA), as well as Radio Australia—will be barred from being aired under the directive.

Three other foreign broadcasters—the state-run Voice of Vietnam and China Radio International and French public radio station RFI—will not be affected as they operate their own stations in Cambodia.

Move ‘questions legitimacy’ of elections

The U.S. government immediately lodged a protest with the Cambodian authorities over the directive, saying it will throw in doubt the legitimacy of the elections, in which Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is widely expected to win, enabling him to extend his 28 years in power.

The CPP has won the last two polls by a landslide despite allegations of fraud and election irregularities.

“The directive is a flagrant infringement on freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and is yet another incident that starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process,” John Simmons, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said in a statement.

“While Royal Government officials at the highest levels have publicly expressed an intention to conduct free and fair elections, these media restrictions, and other efforts to limit freedom of expression, will seriously call into question the legitimacy of the electoral process,” he said.

About 10 local FM stations carry Khmer programs by RFA, which also broadcasts on shortwave in Cambodia.

RFA said in a statement that it “remains committed to bringing objective, accurate, and balanced election coverage to the people of Cambodia at this critical time” and vowed that it “will do so on every delivery platform available.”

“The Ministry of Information’s directive doesn’t stem from complaints of programming irregularities, but rather is a blatant strategy to silence the types of disparate and varied voices that characterize an open and free society,” it said.

Mam Sonando

Mam Sonando, a Cambodian activist who runs the independent Beehive Radio and an ardent critic of Hun Sen’s administration, called the ban “illegal” and “childish” but added that he would comply with the order.

He said the order would hurt political parties scrambling to convey their messages to the people ahead of the elections.

Mam Sonando, who owns Beehive Radio, told RFA earlier this week that the Information Ministry is restricting overseas groups from buying airtime at Beehive Radio and had turned down requests to set up relay stations to beam to the provinces.

Election reporting

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was puzzled by the Cambodian government’s suggestion of foreign meddling in the elections.

“There has been no history in Cambodia of foreigners participating on a partisan basis in elections,” said Brad Adams, executive director of HRW’s Asia division. “What this is really about is they don’t want foreigners coming in and observing the elections and then doing their job independently and professionally and reporting their results.”

He said the Hun Sen government was trying to prevent reporting of events leading up to the elections.

“It’s about the fact that they know the elections are going to be very poor—they are structurally poor, they are poor in implementation and poor in practice and they don’t want this reported,” Adams said.

Cambodian Center for Independent Media Director Pa Nguon Teang said the ban was aimed at curbing the views of the opposition in the country.

Freedom of the press has increasingly declined in the country, with reporters exposing government corruption and other illegal activity coming under deadly attack and facing death threats, including from the authorities, according to a rights group and local journalists.

Stifling ‘opposition radio’

Pa Nguon Teang felt the directive was specifically aimed at RFA and VOA.

“The ban intends to stifle the voice of RFA and VOA because the government has regarded the two stations as opposition radio stations,” he said, adding that by preventing local stations from carrying programs by the two entities, the government believes it can “silence” the opposition parties.

Local rights group Adhoc’s chief investigator Ny Chakriya said the ministry’s ban is “not based on any applicable laws,” pointing out that “it is illegal and can’t be enforced.”

“The ban is against the constitution because the constitution guarantees freedom of expression,” he said.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, also called the move a violation of the constitution.

“Any order preventing media dissemination is against the constitution,” he said.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Vuthy Huot and Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Andy Sennitt (with Focus Asia Pacific) points out that VOA has many affiliate stations in Cambodia that will be affected. VOA still plans to broadcast election coverage on medium wave and shortwave, however.

If this sounds all too familiar, you might remember Zimbabwe’s radio ban earlier this year.