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France10.12.2003

Radio Non Grata forced off the air

Reporters Without Borders has been forced to suspend broadcasting of Radio Non Grata, the pirate radio station it launched to protest against a UN ban on its participating in the World Summit on the Information Society and to denounce the violations of free expression committed by many of the governments attending the summit. Radio non grata’s site

Reporters Without Borders was today forced to suspend broadcasting of Radio Non Grata, the pirate station it launched yesterday in the Geneva area to protest against its exclusion from the World Summit on the Information Society that began yesterday in Geneva.

"After being banned by the United Nations from speaking at the summit, we have now been forced off the air by the French authorities," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said.

"But, unless someone decides to censor the Internet as well, Radio Non Grata’s broadcasts can still be heard on our website," Ménard added.

At 1 p.m. today, three officials from France’s National Frequency Agency went to Ferney-Voltaire (in French territory, 8 km from Geneva) looking for Radio Non Grata’s transmitter, which was located in a rural area.

When they returned an hour later accompanied by gendarmes, Reporters Without Borders decided to stop broadcasting because of the threat that all of its equipment - a mobile transmitter and generator - would be seized.

The purpose of the broadcasts was to condemn the organisation’s exclusion from the summit and to publicise the violations of free expression on the Internet committed by many of the governments taking part.

Reporters Without Borders’ consultative status with the United Nations was suspended for a year on 24 July at Cuba’s request. At the inaugural session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Reporters Without Borders activists had protested against the choice of a representative of Col. Gaddafi’s regime to chair the commission.

Radio Non Grata was broadcast in the Geneva area on 95.8 FM in English and French, carrying programmes especially tailored for the occasion. They included interviews with Ménard, former Agence France-Presse director Claude Moisy, the head of the Swiss branch of Reporters Without Borders, Gérald Sapey, and the co-authors of the book "The United Nations against human rights?" - Jean-Claude Buhrer and Claude Levenson.

Also interviewed were Patrice Mugny, administrative adviser for cultural affairs for the city of Geneva; Christian Ferrazino, mayor of Geneva; Stéphane Koch, the chairman of the Internet Society Geneva; and Pamela Taylor, a US journalist specialising in the media.

A Reporters Without Borders team was in Geneva to publicise Radio Non Grata. Its members handed out mini radios on which people could listen to the pirate radio, along with leaflets and posters with the message, "Don’t let them decide the future of the Internet."

More than 50 people are currently in prison for setting up independent online news sites that criticise governments, or just for visiting banned websites. Tunisia, China, Vietnam, Cuba and the Maldives are among the "predators" of freedom on the Internet, censoring hundreds of sites, intercepting e-mails, tracking down and jailing cyber-dissidents. Nonetheless, the leaders of these countries make a show of appearing at the World Summit on the Information Society.

Radio Non Grata can still be heard on the Reporters Without Borders website: [http://www.radionongrata.info/]