Tag Archives: anti-censorship

Voices from the Field: Tarek Elshamy

Tarek Elshamy reporting from Tahrir Square

“During the dangerous days of covering the 25 January revolution, international journalists were under attack and Alhurra was no exception. A mob stormed Alhurra’s Cairo news office where all our team was camped out reporting on the always changing events minute by minute. It was believed that Mubarak’s regime was trying to stop transmission of TV channels that gained credibility during the revolution. While we were on air a mob tried to storm the office and tried to scare the team. Most of the team climbed out onto the balcony and jumped across to the roof of a hotel that was next door to escape. However, we stayed on the air. I tried to prevent the mob from coming into the offices, but they did get in and went on to steal some equipment and threatened to attack us again if we continued our coverage. However, we were not deterred and continued our nonstop coverage as usual. I also told the story on air to let everyone know that we will not be intimidated.

Alhurra’s coverage of the Egyptian revolution was one of the only places that Egyptian viewers could turn to watch the events as they happened without bias. A phone survey of Egyptians in Cairo and Alexandria showed that 25 percent of the respondents had watched Alhurra during that time as a source of news and information about the revolution.”

Tarek Elshamy is the Cairo News Bureau Chief and Chief Correspondent. He is the host of  “Hiwar Cairo,” a weekly program in Cairo, Egypt that examines the  political and social aspects of the country on the Alhurra network.  The program hosts a wide range of figures, including state ministers, heads of political parties, presidential candidates and others. El Shamy has received awards from the London based Association of International Broadcasting (AIB) as well as the David Burke Award for the distinguished coverage of the Egyptian Revolution.

Friday Media Roundup

In the last week:

  • PRI’s The World covers the retirement of Leo Sarkisian, founder of Voice of America’s “Music Time in Africa.”
  • The New York Times quotes a Voice of America interview about online censorship.
  • The Chicago Tribune cites Radio Free Asia reporting that North Korea is expediting tourist visas to visit the country.

See more mentions, citations, and articles of interest on bbg.gov.

August 31, 1983 – Remembering a Critical Cold War Episode

On the night of August 31, 1983, Bill Whitacre was given an urgent task: A South Korean commercial airplane had been shot down by the Soviet Union over the Sea of Japan, and VOA needed to inform its audience about the breaking news.

From Ethiopia to Vietnam, there are
75 RMSs around the world. Each RMS
consists of an antenna, a radio and a
computer attached to the Internet such
as the one pictured here.
[Photo provided by the Spectrum Management
Division of the Office of Engineering]

The downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 is considered one of the tensest moments of the Cold War – all 269 passengers and crew aboard were killed, including Lawrence McDonald, a sitting member of the U.S. Congress. As a frequency manager for Voice of America, Whitacre needed to ensure that VOA’s English and Korean broadcasting wouldn’t be disrupted by jamming – a form of censorship that disrupts the free flow of information by deliberately transmitting noise interference.

“We stayed up most of the night to broadcast it in Korean and English,” Whitacre remembered. “It was one of the most exciting and memorable moments of my career.”

Whitacre, who today serves as monitoring chief for the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), has been fighting against jamming for more than 30 years. “What has remained constant is jamming,” Whitacre said noting that although the Cold War has since ended, there are still many countries that try to jam our broadcasts.

You can hear what jamming sounds like today at this link.

One technique to combat jamming, Whitacre explained, is to put the programming on multiple frequencies as it is “more difficult for a country to block everything.”

The Monitoring Data Entry System helps
monitors around the world determine the
signal strength, degradation, and signal
merit, with numbers from one to five.
A sample monitoring report follows.
[Photo provided by the Spectrum Management
Division of the IBB]

IBB’s monitoring division operates a network of 75 remote monitoring systems (RMSs) around the world to determine the reception quality for shortwave, medium wave and FM transmissions. Often placed on the rooftop of an embassy or private residence, each RMS consists of an antenna, a radio, and a computer connected to the Internet, with a rating system ranging from one to five to determine signal strength, degradation, and overall merit. For example, a rating of five indicates the best possible shortwave reception, while a rating of one means no transmission can be heard.

IBB also works to employ a wide range of media to get our message heard, specifically transmitting audio through satellite radio, which can be harder to jam.

From radio to satellite to the Internet, for Whitacre, the mission remains the same. “It’s all about delivering the best information with the best likelihood of reaching the audience.”

By Jenn Beard & Yimou Lee