winning press freedom
The Great Firewall of China is not the only censorship fortification
the Chinese authorities have built to stop the “foreign invaders.”
At the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, the regime has also
erected a veritable Maginot Line of antennas and signal jammers that
effectively covers the ears of the entire country.
Voice of Tibet, an attempt to bring news and information to that
region, and its director, Oystein Alme, know all about this gagging system.
Chinese Jammers Play No Music
By Oystein Alme
It is a misconception from many sides and misinformed by the Chinese that
Western journalists are against the Tibetans and that the Tibetans hate the
The criticism is based on what the Chinese authorities have committed to
themselves. China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto
The Chinese Constitution’s article 35 says freedom of the press, freedom
of expression, and freedom of association are guaranteed.
What happened in Tibet, why did they risk their lives to protest? The
debate has turned in different directions. What is happening in Tibet, and
why did the demonstrations take place? The Dalai Lama travels the world to
try to get an acceptable answer to their relationship with China in a
During the March 14 demonstrations in Lhasa, the police had vanished. The
next day the police used brutal force, and at the same time, the footage
came to the rest of the world, and covered half of the domestic news for a
Under normal circumstances, this would not have happened. Look now at how
the Chinese authorities portray the Tibetans as criminals and terrorists,
and the Dalai Lama as their master schemer and they say they can prove it.
The Chinese could not give the terrorist label to the Tibetans before
March 14. The Dalai Lama has called it cultural genocide. The Tibetans say
the ethnic Chinese moving into is a major problem of assimilation.
All the journalists and tourists were kicked out of Tibet, except those
journalists who agreed to take guided tours of the conflict areas. You see
that the monks were able to get to the journalists. They said, “We are not
against the Olympics—we’re for them.” This is good example that the people
of Tibet are for the Chinese people, not against them.
The Chinese government uses information and a media monopoly to bring the
word of the party to the masses. They must control the message and prevent
other messages to get in. That’s why jamming is so normal and used against
us ever since we started our broadcasts.
There are two ways to jam. Since what we do is use shortwave
transmission, the Chinese authorities jam long distance mainly in four
cities, but they now use three cross jamming transmitters. The International
Telecommunications Union is responsible for frequencies distribution.
They’re supposed to address the jamming problem. But they tell us, “We know,
others have made that complaint, but we don’t have any way of addressing
China, so speak to someone else.”
The other way is ground-wave jamming, which uses small installations that
can take out a city or a valley. They do some jamming locally, spending
hundreds of millions of US dollars to jam and block access to foreign
transmissions. In Tibet, they’ve built more than 100 jamming antennas that
block us in cities and townships.
In China, it’s illegal to listen to our program. The dog will bark if
someone’s coming. They can listen as long as the dog doesn’t bark. We beam
to private satellite dish owners. The government threatens satellite
companies to remove our dishes.
Voice of Tibet is very small with very limited resources. And China
violates our freedom of speech. I’ve protested to the government of Norway.
They think we’re trying to split Tibet from China. The jamming doesn’t stop
at the border. You can’t even hear our transmission in Paris because it’s
This is an important aspect that the people in China know very little
about Tibet, only what they’ve heard from the monopoly sources in China.
Foreign news doesn’t reach China or Tibet. It would be important to speak to
Some ask how we’re going to handle the opening ceremony. If you don’t
respond to our demands, we’ll use the sanctions we have. The opening
ceremony can be one of the ways we address it.
Oystein Alme is Director of Voice of Tibet, a station funded by the
Norwegian government that broadcasts in Tibetan and Mandarin.