WORLD

Silencing Radio Free Europe

NANCY MACDONALD May 19 2008
WORLD

Silencing Radio Free Europe

NANCY MACDONALD May 19 2008

Silencing Radio Free Europe

NANCY MACDONALD

The websites of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have been hit by mass cyberattack. Initiated late last month, the two-day attack eventually knocked out sites serving Belarus and seven other areas, said the Prague-based surrogate broadcaster. Attackers flooded the station’s servers with “fake hits,” shutting them down, says Ottawabased internet security expert Rafal Rohozinski. In countries like Belarus, where domestic media is weak or unavailable, RFE is a key news source, as it was for most of the Cold War, when it was the only independent media whose broadcasts reached behind the Iron Curtain.

Though it has no concrete evidence, RFE is fingering the government of Belarus, a regime that has been called the last dictatorship in Europe. Rohozinski concurs with that charge. Government forces used the “exact same techniques” during and immediately after the last election, when the political opposition was trying to mount protests. Indeed, he says Belarus has been “very innovative” in using cyberwarfare to silence political opposition and independent media. Dubbed an “outpost of tyranny” by the U.S., Belarus has, for 14 years, been ruled by the mustachioed president Alexander Lukashenko, who, with the help of the former Soviet republic’s security service—still known as the KGB-has been accused of crushing dissent, persecuting independent media and political opposition, as well as rigging landslide elections.

“Dictators are still trying to prevent the kind of unfiltered news and information that [Radio Free Europe] provides from reaching their people,” said RFE president Jeffrey Gedmin. “They did not succeed in the last century and they will not succeed now,” he added, comparing the attack with Soviet-era jamming that blocked radio transmissions in Communist countries. Nl