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<nettime> Radio B92-OpenNet: Internet against Censorship
Drazen Pantic on Mon, 28 Sep 1998 19:05:03 +0200 (MET DST)


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<nettime> Radio B92-OpenNet: Internet against Censorship


Radio B92-OpenNet: Internet against Censorship
(ANEM conference text)

The Endless Struggle

When governments talk about freedom of expression on the Internet, they
talk about a minimal set of rights to be preserved while looking to
regulate everything else. And the more repressive the government, the
leaner that set rights. When Internet libertarians discuss the same topic
they speak about a minimal set of restrictions to be met by the media in
order not to be crushed by some anonymous, repressive government official.

This struggle goes on every day when some remote listener tunes in to B92
news via the Internet, or satellite, or the ANEM network, despite the fact
that the radio itself has a licence which allows it a range of just a few
blocks of the city. Or when a student from Burma sends e-mail with the
latest news, or when reporters from Kosovo carry DVD cameras and send
objective, but surreptitiously taped footage from the ground.

The new media and the new information technologies of the Internet are at
the forefront of the struggle against censorship and intimidation of
broadcasters. The example of B92 and ANEM shows that information does
reach its audience and that new technologies are an unparalleled tool for
that task. And the more the regime tries to suppress the free flow of
information, the more the new media techniques demonstrate their ability
to overcome suppression. When, for instance, the regime closes down radio
stations in the ANEM network in Serbia, the program of that station still
makes its way to the listeners. The station simply uploads its new
broadcasts to one of OpenNet's Internet servers as a RealAudio clip which
is then converted back to audio signal and sent via satellite back to the
ANEM network. This kind of solidarity in the creative use of new
technologies gives the vulnerable network great strength and stability in
the endless struggle of David and Goliath.

Global and Local

One of the key elements for activists using the Internet is the ability to
immediately disseminate information world-wide. The very moment the
government jammed the signal of Radio B92 in 1996, the international
community was alerted. And conversely whenever and wherever around the
world there is suppression of a radio or television station, ANEM is ready
to react instantly in defence of endangered media. The Internet can serve
as a tool to ask for help and support, but it can also itself be a means
of putting pressure on those who violate the right to freedom of
expression.

The distinction between local and global is no longer so clear cut.
Concrete activities obviously still take place on a local level, but they
are no longer restricted to the local area. On the other hand, global
actions like a campaign against racism or the defence of the rights of
minorities or media world-wide are broadcast through the Internet world
wide as will as within the local community of users of an ISP.

The example of ANEM and its experience has become well known to
organisations, NGOs and governments throughout the world. Their daily
presence on the Internet and their sharing of strategies with other
organisations through the Internet have made B92 and ANEM a recognised
source of expertise in the field of new media. There are similar examples
of success with other new media. Thus we can see the Internet as a
repository for strategies in new and classical media practice or, more
generally, as promoting the civil society world wide.

The Virtualisation of the Repressive Regime

The experience of B92 and ANEM in the fight against censorship has
redefined the word "virtual" in the social context. B92 with its listeners
and OpenNet with the users of its Internet services were once small
virtual communities within a hostile environment. But by the imaginative
use of the Internet and satellite technology B92 has managed to increase
the range and impact of the information it broadcasts far beyond its
actual physical reach. From a small local radio with great impact, B92 has
become a globally accessible media outlet, retaining and increasing its
impact. On the other hand the suppressive activities of the regime have
not had an immediate destructive effect on the radio, but rather
transformed the regime's hostility into virtual aggression.
 
Belgrade, September 1998


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