BEIJING: A media watchdog took over a frequency on China’s tightly-controlled airwaves Friday in a symbolic protest calling for free speech just hours before the start of the Beijing Olympic Games.
Reporters Without Borders broadcast the 20-minute programme in Chinese, English and French beginning from 8:08 am (0008 GMT), exactly 12 hours before the Olympic opening ceremony.
The Paris-based group said it was the first of its kind in China since the Communist Party seized power in 1949.
“China is the country of censorship, and this programme is our way of making fun of the Chinese authorities who still keep hundreds of journalists and Internet users in prison,” said a voice at the start of the broadcast.
“It’s our way of saying to them: Despite everything you do, here are the voices of people you want to silence and they are speaking in the heart of Beijing on the very first day of the Olympics.”
“It’s our way of saying: Whatever measures you take you will never be able to abolish the right to free speech,” said the voice.
The broadcast, which could be heard in several districts in Beijing, was the first of its kind in nearly 60 years, RSF said in a news release issued to the media at the end of the programme.
“This is the first non-state radio station to have broadcast in China since the Communist Party took power in 1949,” RSF said.
“Only international Chinese-language radio stations broadcasting on the short wave would be able to break this news and information monopoly, but they are jammed by the authorities.”
Secretary General Robert Menard said in the news release that the Chinese authorities had refused to issue visas to ten of RSF’s members.
“But this has not stopped us from making ourselves heard in Beijing by means of a clandestine radio broadcast using miniaturised FM transmitters and antennas,” Menard said.
“Reporters Without Borders devised and carried out this protest in a spirit of resistance against state control of the media.”
Members of RSF disrupted the Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece earlier this year, setting the stage for demonstrations throughout the relay.
Channel News Asia