In a quick move to protect freedom of speech, Progressive Networks' Real Audio began hosting an independent Belgrade Radio B92 station over the Net this evening after the Serbian government had the station pulled off the air.
Yesterday, Joe Follansbee, a Real Audio special projects editor, heard the radio station had Real Audio clips. Company executives decided to get behind B92 and promised to have broadcasts by 5 p.m. today.
"This company is committed to free speech," he said. "We wanted to support B92."
The station's own Web site is also still up and running. Its opening screen banners an urgent message stating that "Radio B92 is in danger!"
B92, which has won awards for anti-war engagement and other projects in the domain of culture and communications, is yet another example of an oppressed community discovering the democratic powers of the Internet. First attracting worldwide attention with the Chinese pro-democracy movement in 1989, the Net is being used increasingly by dissidents from all parts of the political spectrum.
Users can look at press releases on the radio's site from the B92 station manager and listen to RealAudio recordings in English. A message recorded today announces, "This is an urgent message to all supporters of radio station B92. At 1500 hours local time on December 3, 1996, the radio lost its frequency and received the following letter from the Federal Ministry for Transporting Communications for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."
A female voice reads the letter, which states that the station is operating illegally, without a license. The letter also is printed on the site.
The message concludes: "We please urge you all to use the Internet as much as possible and to keep in contact with Radio B92. Thank you."
The first press release on the site, dated November 27, details how the radio was taken off the air four times "during its regular reporting on the anti-government demonstrations in Belgrade, which have lasted for several days now."
"Demonstrations are being organised by the democratic opposition, dissatisfied with the results on local elections being cancelled by the regime," states the release, signed by Veran Matic, editor in chief of the station. "The regime is trying to prevent its electoral defeat in major cities of Serbia--which is the first factual defeat of the Slobodan Milosevic's regime since 1987."
"Radio B92 is a single independent electronic medium in Belgrade, which is continually reporting on actual events, and it operates [sic] for 7 years now without an official licence," it states.
"It is obvious that this is a direct threat and an introduction to a final ban of the B92," according to the statement. "This radio has so far been the best, most reliable, and professional source of information for both the citizens of Belgrade and foreign correspondents based in FR Yugoslavia. Should it be banned, this would mean a huge blow for democratic processes in Serbia and an obvious undermining of all the principles that the Dayton Agreement stands for."