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NICK GRACE: The Internet is a tool for the masses. It is a tool that is being used to topple governments.
KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, the voices of clandestine radio on the Net. And Italy’s new leadership role.
MARCO PERONACI: Italy is, within the UN, one of the most active contributors to UN operations. Italian foreign policy is based on the principles of international cooperation, democracy, and social justice.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It’s produced by the Stanley Foundation. I’m Kristin McHugh.
PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Ever since the first radio signals cracked the air the source of some broadcasts remains unknown. Anyone who can build a transmitter and a studio can put a signal on the air and say they are anyone from anywhere. This was particularly true with short-wave stations beginning during World War II. In the past few years clandestine radio stations have found a new way to distribute their message: the Internet. Common Ground‘s Ken Mills tells us about a new way to find clandestine voices
[blues playing in the background]
KEN MILLS: This may sound like Memphis blues, but the musicians are dissident students from Burma.
[blues playing in the background]
MILLS: Originating from Norway, Radio Free Burma is an example of a new breed of clandestine international radio stations. These stations are reaching listeners through the Internet. Radio Free Burma is one of hundreds of clandestine radio stations that can be heard on the Web site Clandestine Radio Intel—CRI. Clandestine Radio Intel is not related to the Intel Corporation. In fact, this Web site is a one-man project. The man who hosts the Web site is an American, Nick Grace. From his current base in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nick Grace tells the history of the project.
NICK GRACE: Well, the Clandestine Radio Intel Web site has been online since roughly mid-to-late 1996. I’ve been a longtime amateur radio aficionado and an avid short-wave listener over the past fifteen years or so, coming up on twenty, I guess. When the Internet began, when it was still in its infancy, if you will, I had this feeling that sooner or later the Internet would be used by opposition groups, guerrilla organizations, and anyone else who would want to promote their goals.
MILLS: So Nick Grace started a Web site that’s sort of a Reader’s Digest of clandestine radio stations. Want to check out the latest from the Taliban? Just click on the Voice of Islamic Law.
[sound of Islamic chants and prayers]
MILLS: Grace didn’t start the Web site for political reasons, but the Web site has taken on a life of its own.
GRACE: The Web site originally began as a side project. Something I was interested in and it’s really taken off. Within the first year or so I realized that most of the people entering the Web site, accessing it, were nonshort-wave radio people, those who were interested let’s say in politics and government analysts and whatnot. And it’s really blossomed from there to the point now where, where I’m wondering what the next step is for the Web site.
MILLS: Grace wants to keep the Web site independent. But he has had some interesting inquiries.
GRACE: I make it very clear on the Web site that I do not sponsor any of the organizations that are listed and any of the organizations, groups, and people that I write about on the site. And in addition I do not have anyone standing behind me. So there is no agenda other than to educate. As a result of that, and also as a result of the level of objectivity I’ve been able to maintain in all the information that’s detailed on the Web site, I’ve actually gotten quite a few of these organizations, that is their overseas representatives, and even in a few cases the people on the front lines so to speak, gotten, I’ve gotten their trust. Which is something I never thought, I never thought it was possible. Not in starting this Web site, I never even considered that to be an objective.
MILLS: One of the most sophisticated clandestine radio stations is Tamil-Oli Radio.
[Tamil music playing in the background]
GRACE: For example, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, they even have Real Audio programs, excerpts of their programs, on their Web site. So no matter where you are you can pull in their latest programs.
MILLS: This station is based in France. The programming is heard on short wave in Sri Lanka. It’s broadcast from a location in a northeast province. But the majority of listeners hear Tamil-Oli Radio from the Internet. Nick Grace categorizes clandestine radio stations into three general groups.
GRACE: Clandestine radio has been categorized, or it’s been generalized, into three categories: that is, white, gray, and black. White clandestines are those that are operated out in the open, that have sources of funding and sponsorships that are clear and out in the open—they’re transparent if you will. A good example of a white clandestine would be Radio Marti, the anti-Cuban government broadcasting outlet operated by the US Information Agency down in Florida.
MILLS: Another example of white propaganda found on the CRI Web site is Qui Hong Radio, which broadcasts to Vietnam from Hawaii, and worldwide on the Internet.
QUI HONG RADIO ANNOUNCER: Wake up, wake up please. It’s Monday morning, it’s pretty, pretty late, but….
MILLS: Grace talks about a second type of clandestine station. Gray stations.
GRACE: Gray clandestines are not transparent. They are, their sources of funding and sponsorships are operated covertly. These are stations that could very well be funded through a foreign intelligence agency; for instance the CIA, or the equivalent in England, the MI-6, or Iraqi intelligence, or the Russian predecessor to the KGB.
[sound of gray clandestine radio announcer speaking]
MILLS: You are hearing a gray radio station found on the CRI Web site—Radio Iran of Tomorrow. You heard how the announcer carefully gave the station’s URL at the end of the broadcast. Broadcast from Moldava, its funder is not known. Next, Nick Grace talks about black clandestine stations.
GRACE: The third category of clandestine radio is what they term black. These are stations that are methods, they’re tools of psychological war—psy-war. Stations that portray themselves as one thing, but are in fact, another. Oftentimes during a civil war, a civil war in which clandestine radio is playing a powerful role, the government will turn around and set up their own station which uses the same name and similar programming as that clandestine radio station.
MILLS: A very sophisticated black propaganda station is El Pueblo Responde, sponsored by the government of Columbia. This clandestine station mimics rebel stations. Nick Grace talks about the growing impact of clandestine radio and the Internet.
GRACE: The interesting trend that I’ve been noticing is that the Internet is a tool for the masses, is a tool that is being used to topple governments. If we take Indonesia as the prime example, the government of Suharto was, I think you could argue, was overthrown through the Internet. And you’ve got other conflicts in the world—for example, Sierra Leone—where the overseas Sierra Leonese—and if we talk about Indonesia, the overseas Indonesians—they’re organizing and coordinating their activities, their antigovernment activities, through the Internet.
MILLS: For radio and the Internet to have impact it needs emotion. According to Grace, the combination of clandestine radio, emotion, and hatred, led to the genocide in Rwanda.
GRACE: These clandestine radio stations, they have strength in the power of faith. That is when the announcer comes on the air, if we take, if we look at, for example, the genocide in Rwanda—for us Americans it’s hard to imagine how one radio station could prompt, could entice, could motivate the level of genocide that took place in the Great Lakes region in Africa, in Rwanda back in 1994. But it happened. How did it happen? Well the announcers of the radio stations were fervent. The announcers were energetic. They believed in what they were saying. And in fact one of, the Belgian-born announcer of the station, Radio Milcoline, the “Radio of a Thousand Hills,” a station that has gained quite a bit of notoriety in the recent court proceedings regarding what happened in Rwanda—well, the main announcer of the station pled guilty recently. Why? Well it was because he finally, during his stay in jail after he was caught, he realized that what he had done was despicable. He realized that what he had done was indeed a crime of humanity. Well, you can imagine, what does that mean? That means that when he was on the air calling the other races and whatnot in Rwanda, calling them cockroaches and encouraging the listeners to grab their machetes and hack off the arms and legs of their neighbors—their neighbors who may be of a different race—well, he believed what he was saying. That’s very powerful, if you as a listener hear that. Very, very powerful.
MILLS: The future of Clandestine Radio Intel is not known. Like many Web sites it might vanish overnight. Reporting for Common Ground, I’m Ken Mills.
PORTER: Coming up, Italy’s reestablished leadership role.
MARCO PERONACI: We think that the UN needs reform and we want to reform all the UN, which makes it more effective, more democratic, and which gives it a great future.
MCHUGH: Nearly sixty different governments have ruled Italy since World War II. But despite the apparent domestic instability, Italy is reestablishing itself as a world leader. Marco Peronaci is a councilor with Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is currently based in Rome but has also worked at posts in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tokyo. I recently talked with him about this job, Italy’s strong Asian ties, and his country’s reemerging world leadership role.
MARCO PERONACI: My job varies enormously according to where I am and according to the type of setting in which it takes place. Currently I am the Minister of Foreign Affairs and I’ve moved from the Asia Department where I have been working in the last two years, to the personnel department. This is because actually we are reforming the internal organizations, the structure of the Ministry, and that’s been one of my main concerns recently. When you are abroad in embassies your work is totally different. You have general political work which is relating the country where you are accredited to your country. You have, if you are in a developing country, probably to manage the cooperation for development programs. You have cultural events to organize. You have press affairs to deal with. It really depends on where you are.
MCHUGH: You spent several years in Tokyo with the embassy there. I’m curious—I looked on the Web, noticed that there’s quite an extensive Web site for that particular embassy. What interest does Italy have in Japan?
PERONACI: Italy has a long traditional relationship with Asia, and also with Japan. And more to the point, in the last two decades following the incredible boom in Japan, Italian products have become very popular and Italian exports have grown a lot. So we have clearly a strong interest to keep those positions. As you know, in new sophisticated markets what you, positions you have today, are not there tomorrow. So that’s one of the reasons why we need to stay there. And also there is a complementarity between the Italian attitudes and Japanese culture somehow. And the two things seem to get on quite well together. This is shown by the enormous number of Japanese tourists coming to Italy, by the spread of Italian products and Italian restaurants and foods and music—really sometimes we were astonished to see how much the Japanese knew about ourselves. And ashamed, because we know much less about them. So, these are just some impression of our presence there. And the other way to look at the presence of the embassy there is the fact that Tokyo is one of the most important places to follow Asian affairs nowadays. And Asia is to grow to become an important area, and even more important than it is today. And Tokyo provides an invaluable looking point at Asian things.
MCHUGH: Peronaci adds Italy was saddened by the recent death of Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, but he’s confident Japan’s government won’t suffer any lasting effects.
PERONACI: Italy is actually going to organize a big cultural event in 2001. It will be called “Italy in Japan” and it will feature an enormous number of events. And Mr. Obuchi had been very instrumental in strengthening cooperation. I actually remember meeting him in Rome in January. And it’s really something which has touched us deeply. On the other hand we are very confident that the Japanese government, the Japanese people, can overtake this moment and go ahead and while we recognize that there will be a void they feel, we are pretty confident that they will find a solution. And it means that politically or economically we don’t see big problems arising from that.
MCHUGH: Outside of Japan but in the Asia region, how would you describe the political and economic stability of that region?
PERONACI: Outside Japan and it’s difficult to take Japan outside the picture, because I think one of the challenges is to put Japan inside the Asian picture more and more because it can offer a very important role to the stability of [the] area—we see there are a number of flash points of potential threats which need to be addressed. In fact one of the reason of my trip to the United States is to research on these areas and to discuss with Americans from the public and private sectors on how they see these issues. Threats can come from accidents, they can come from terroristic action, can come from misunderstandings of each other’s initiatives. And we see of course, clear areas such as Korean Peninsula, but also China-Taiwan relations, South China Sea, and Indonesia, as regions which really need to be looked at very carefully. And we believe that the region has got enormous potentials. But there is a fundamental lack of an organized security network, an organized political dialogue. There are very important relationships—for instance Japan-US relationship is one of the pillars of the stability of the area—but there are also other big players emerging. Not only China but also India. And there is a problem tied to the transition in Indonesia, which is in itself a very good, positive thing, but which poses security problems and which is causing a kind of a security vacuum in Southeast Asia. So we think that there is a lot of work to do in order to strengthen relationships between single players and between and among the region, and we want and are very interested in giving our contribution to that. We also think that a lot of work has to be done to diffuse the security threats, and that’s also why another reason why Italy established diplomatic relationships with North Korea in January.
MCHUGH: Are you concerned that the rest of the world—at least the Western world—is not going to view Italy favorably because of that position with North Korea?
PERONACI: Let’s say we are concerned, but we think that the value of our good ideas can be recognized by taking care to explain them. And we have seen that thesis already being the case. Our policy towards North Korea doesn’t come out from the blue. In fact we have been working at the Korean, on Korean affairs for some time, so we have closely discussed our position with the United States, with Japan, and with South Korea. And we have had positive reactions from all of them. We started giving our contribution to the Korean Peninsula security affairs by funding KITO, which [is] an organization for regional security created in ’94. And we have seen that there is a merit in trying to open a channel of communication with the North Koreans. And we have pushed dialogue between North Korea and Europe, not only with Italy. All that has then brought us to decide to open relationships as a way to pass messages even more clearly to the North Koreans. And we think that this is in itself a name which is worth approaching.
MCHUGH: You also talked about India. Is there concern on your country’s part about the current tension going on between India and Pakistan, and the fact that both of them are nuclear states?
PERONACI: Yes, there is a lot of concern. There’s a lot of concern because the dynamics of the region is not only confrontation between India and Pakistan, it’s very much tied to what we lack in Asia and what’s going on in China. We think that the message which needs to be clearly understood by everybody in the world is that there is a strong consensus to go ahead with arms control and nuclear nonproliferation. And if this message is strong then we have a chance that countries such as India and Pakistan can understand it. If this message is weak, then they will not; as may have been the case in the last one to two years. So we think that the right policies should be pushed in order to act on avoiding an arms race, which is possible and which could trigger a chain reaction for Asia.
MCHUGH: In recent years Italy has committed hundreds of troops to peacekeeping operations all around the world—Kosovo and East Timor come to mind primarily. Italy is not the first country that I would think of, and I’m sure most Americans would think of, in terms of a country committing tremendous number of resources to peacekeeping efforts. Why does Italy get involved?
PERONACI: Italy is, within the UN, one of the most active contributors to UN operations. Italian foreign policy is based on the principles of international cooperation, democracy, and social justice. And we are in fact the fifth contributor to the UN budget, which is in itself something important. But we have always thought that, apart from money, we should give something else. And what is more telling that, than sending your own people for peacekeeping operations abroad. If you remember the days when Japan was accused of just paying cash when there was the Gulf War, you understand what I mean. So we want to have a whole round engagement in world affairs and that means also sometimes taking difficult decisions such as sending people into Timor, which you have to explain to Italians where it is. So this is very much in fitting with our traditional foreign policy line, I would say.
MCHUGH: Italy has been pushing for Security Council reform at the UN for a number of years. And just recently the US indicated a willingness to be a little bit more flexible on Security Council reform. Is that encouraging?
PERONACI: Yes, that’s very encouraging. We think that the UN needs reform and we want to reform all the UN, which makes it more effective, more democratic, and which gives it a great future. That’s why we have been resisting reforms which according to us would not fit with that ambitions. We are very happy to see that there are some good signs. We are also very interested in promoting the role of a United Europe within the UN. And we think that we have a lot of good work to do in that direction.
MCHUGH: How would you describe US-Italian relations? Certainly they cooled after 1998’s ski gondola accident, caused by a US Marine plane. Has the state of relations improved in recent months, or are they still kind of cool?
PERONACI: Well, I wouldn’t define them cool. That, the accident you mentioned is a, is something which has caused an enormous impression in Italy. And it is something which of course calls for attention and for new understanding between two countries which in any case remain fundamental partners and which share common values and which share day-to-day cooperation in institutions such as NATO or even the UN. So I wouldn’t say relations have remained cool. Relations across the ocean are really one of our more important foreign policy pillars, and that cannot be changed by single accidents. They provide, I think, opportunity for refreshing looks at the situation and this we are only too willing to do.
MCHUGH: If you could leave our listeners with one thing about Italy that perhaps they don’t know, what would you tell them?
PERONACI: Italy is not only beautiful skies and interesting monuments; it’s also a place in the Mediterranean where a mix of peoples and cultures have historically intercrossed. And so the “La Dolce Vita” is also a way of learning to be tolerant with yourself and with others, which is a good thing to remember.
MCHUGH: That is Marco Peronaci, a Councilor with Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For Common Ground, I’m Kristin McHugh.
Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.
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