home Cluj Frequency Free Radio - Press Statement

Frequency Free Radio - Press Statement
Joanne Richardson + Radio FF Team
At the end of the ?70s, when I was 9 years old, I left Romania with my parents ? seeking political asylum ? after many illegal searches, arrests, and protest hunger strikes. I came back 20 years later because I heard there had been a revolution here. I?m searching, but I still can?t find it.

I am now in Cluj for a year, collaborating with an international institution, Next 5 Minutes, and organizing a media education and production program (in radio, tv, web, print media) with young people in the city. We would like to promote the idea that media is something anyone can put their hands on. We met our biggest obstacle in trying to create an independent radio station which expresses the voice of youth (as Alexandru Vakulovski said ? a voice that refuses to be degraded by the socio- political-cultural shit of the past), opinions which are outside the mainstream, and all without the vulgar commercialism of actually existing stations. There is a whole history of miniFM radio abroad ? independent radio made with a 1 watt transmitter. In Japan during the 80s, to give only one example where the radio communications laws were extremely harsh, it was possible to create 1 watt radio because at a range of 1 or 2 kilometers it wasn?t considered ?real? radio and outside the laws for licenses ? which could onlybe obtained by government stations.
In present day Romania, it seems to me the situation is even more grave. Laws which permit transmissions at 1 watt in other countries don?t exist here anymore. It is illegal and punishable by imprisonment to emit without a license at any power, even if your signal only covers a few streets. And it is impossible to have a legal, independent, non-commercial station ? the law proposed by Attila Gasparik from CNA (national censor board) which would have granted licenses to independent organizations and NGOs was categorically rejected. So only government stations and commercial stations (with lots of money and full of ads) can get licenses; community radio is forbidden here. A vicious circle, ?catch 22? in English, Ceausescuism in Romanian slang. Democracy doesn?t mean going to the polls once every few years, choosing between a few alternatives ? each worst than the other, but having the possibility to express your ideas daily, to organize your own institutions, and to make media rather than consume it passively. We should learn to forget the law of silence, and dare to ask that laws be changed when they subjugate us rather than promote our interests.
At the beginning of October, Derek Holzer, one of my partners in N5M, made a radio workshop. The focus was on streaming technologies which would permit us to have a net.radio ? since at the moment this is the only legal option in Romania ? and who knows for how long). But he also made a miniFM demonstration, showing how a 1 watt transmission could be made. On November 1 we put announcements everywhere in public places and in local and national media about the launch of ?Radio Fara Frecventa? (Frequency Free Radio or Radio Without a Frequency) at 106.1 microFM. This was a collaborative event organized by the radio group (about 14 students from journalism, philosophy, literature), Alexandru Vakulovski (poet, novelist, one of the editors of TIUK webzine and organizer of events), and Luna Amara (Bitter Moon), an anarchist music group. During a four hour event, Luna Amara sang some really nice songs about the leading politicians and the revolution that never happened; Alexandru Vakulovski read some manifestoes aabout the university as cemetery and proposed Paul Goma - a well known dissident from the 70s who never returned to Romania - for President, and the punk band Parasites for Parliament; the Peace Institute in Cluj taked about their anti-globalization activities; I talked some about minor media initiatives; some people from the audience read some stuff they?d written and jumped into conversations.
The ?launch? of Frequency Free Radio, as the name suggests, was a media hoax ? in fact, we exist only on the internet and have no frequency. The transmission on November 1 was ?internal? and audible only in the place where our happening took place ? those who searched for us on 106.1 didn?t find anything. During our ?launch? we wanted everyone who was present to imagine what it would be like to live in a liberated zone where it is possible to say whatever we want about things that matter to us without being threatened by imprisonment for the desire to communicate freely. Our intention was to start a debate, to provoke questions, to get people to ask why is it not possible to make our own radio, and to promote a campaign for changing totalitarian laws.
I would like to clarify that the Frequency Free Radio project was started by me and by a group of young people, most of them students, and that we assume all the responsibility for our actions. Those from Tranzit who gave us space to make the workshop and our event on November 1 are not implicated in our project and campaign, and neither is Idea Foundation with who I collaborate on organizing symposia and workshops. After ?launching? our radio, I got a few disturbing phone calls which asked for information under false pretenses ? supposedly they were from students with some very old voices who wanted to get involved in the project and asked all sorts of details about who and how many and how and where and at what time and what content? My friends in Romania and abroad asked if we are not afraid to be under the magnifying glass of an investigation, if we are not afraid that SRI (internal Romanian security) has their eyes on us, especially on me as a foreigner. I would say on the contrary that it is Romania which is under an international magnifying glass at the moment. I am not in Romania only as a ?private citizen? but as a member of an international organization with more than 25 people working in different countries ? well known theorists, professors, writers, activists who have the power of international media behind us, as well as links to institutions which promote free media and investigate human rights abuses.
In Romania, in the city of Cluj, in the present moment we demand the possibility to make our radio legally and with a frequency on the dial. We ask for the right to live without fear of expressing our thoughts and desires and we don?t accept compromises. We don?t want to achieve our aims with a lot of noise or to find ourselves in the middle of a media scandal, but I am prepared to make one on an international level, if necessary. If I send a few emails to my colleagues in other countries, we can have Cluj full of foreign press in a few days. This is one of the aims of having an international institution which can link together local initiatives ? a vast network which recognizes that changes and demands for democratization of media always need to start at a local level, but that sometimes an intervention from the outside might be necessary when things appear to be stuck.
Joanne Richardson
Signed by RadioFF team (Adrian, Andreea, Andrei, Cipri, Danut, Gloria, Laura, Liviu, Mihai, Raluca, Stefan, Tavi, Victor), Sandu Vakulovski of TIUK, Nick and Mihnea from Luna Amara.