By Mike Peter, 31 March 2010 — A radio that transmits credible information is always contemplated by dictators with distrust and fear. The ability to transmit messages over the barbed wire of the “Iron Curtains” and across heavily guarded borders, where weapons are pointed into their own citizens by totalitarian régimes, is not easy but achievable. VOA is facing this truth and working vigorously to do so.
In the dictators’ paranoiac imagination credible radio undermines their power and makes the society to be aware of their God given legitimate rights to get information. Allowing a free media is seen by dictators as a danger that works against their effort to have the total control and submission of the citizens. The final endeavor of all régimes with socialist, communist, military, tribal or fundamentalist ideologies is to jam and close down the free media. But there were cases in the past when the oppressive and cruel régime feels itself impregnable and magnanimously allowed the licensing of a few “reliable” media just to fool the western nations, which was a case when Meles’s was preaching about a free speech. But it is now history. Intrinsic to any civilized society, the degree of democracy present in a country is directly proportional to the number of its licensed media.
Western democracies acknowledge that free media works to humanity’s benefit. The laws in these countries grant the media and their workers freedom of movement and activity, thanks to the constitution which is implemented fully and correctly.
For many decades BY1PK was the only workable station in China, until it was silenced by the infamous Cultural Revolution. Now we are hearing of many licensed but controlled stations.
During the regime of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq there was only a single station that was licensed. North Korea has authorized in the past a few operations, the most productive being the activity of Ed Giorgadze, 4L4FN. But it was latter order to be shutdown. There is no hope in the foreseen future that the situation will soon change in North Korea.
Myanmar’s (Burma) military junta was quite reluctant in the past to issue licenses to foreign operators. Being better and smarter than the Meles’s regime, but to many people’s surprise, the generals of Myanmar are convinced that liberalizing the media could boost the country’s image to a world concerned by human rights violations. Currently, they have allowed some “free” media.
Free media in Albanian was an unattainable dream during the Stalinist dictatorship of Enver Hodja. At present there are many free active stations in Albania.
In December 1981, in Poland all free media were forced to hand over their equipment following the imposition of martial law, inspired by the Soviet Union. General Jaruzelski stifled in bloodshed the protests of that country. Poland is today a free country that has joined the democratic league allowing a freedom of speech.
Under the Taliban régime licensing media was imaginable in a country where the most elementary human rights were violated. But now there are many free media active in Afghanistan.
Hopefully, the spirit of free media will ignite in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libya, Yemen, Rwanda, Iran, Sudan, Congo, Cambodia, Laos, and others where the free media is fully restricted. To be fair, I have to mention that Eritrea unlike Ethiopia is not at least currently jamming the VOA.