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Six Minutes to Freedom
 
 
 
How Radio al-Tajdeed Outwitted British Law
By Nick Grace
August 18, 2005


Radio al-Tajdeed, under intense scrutiny by the British press for inciting violence against non-Muslims, is confirmed to be off the air. Its signal, according to Clandestine Radio Watch (CRW) Cairo monitor Marwan Soliman, has been replaced with test tones.

The founder of the station, meanwhile, faces almost certain deportation and its contractors - the companies that helped put it on the air to spread violent jihad - are also facing scrutiny for why, despite long-standing evidence of the nature of the programming, they tolerated it as a client.

Radio al-Tajdeed's al Qaeda Ties
Broadcast from London to the Middle East via satellite and the Internet, Radio al-Tajdeed served as the mouthpiece for the militant Party for Islamic Renewal (Tajdeed) and its founder Dr. Mohammed al-Massari. Al-Massari, a Saudi exile who received asylum in the United Kingdom in 1994, has publicly advocated attacks on British troops serving in Iraq and the assassination of Prime Minister Tony Blair. His ties to al Qaeda and Usama bin Laden are also widely documented.

The Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights (CDLR), a group that al-Massari runs to oppose the Saudi government, has been tied directly to Khalid al-Fawwaz, former bin Laden spokesman in Europe who is now fighting extradition to the US, and Tarik A. Hamdi, an American citizen who was arrested earlier this month while working for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. Al-Massari, according to The Seattle Times, recently went so far as to openly describe CDLR as the "ideological voice" of al Qaeda.

Ostensibly broadcasting to undermine the Saudi regime Radio al-Tajdeed also targeted Iraq, Israel, Egypt and Western civilization. Two hours of new programming each day were recorded and looped for a full 24-hour period. In between militant Islamist chants and music that hailed bin Laden and called upon Muslim youth to fight non-Muslims, al-Massari fielded live phone calls from listeners across the Middle East who directly incited violence. Rather than preach tolerance or moderation al-Massari and the station's hosts, however, would stoke outrage by reminding the audience of perceived Arab grudges against the West and Israel. Its satellite footprint, where reception of the satellite was optimum, covered the entire Middle East.

On May 6 the studios were raided during the recording of a program and its listeners were treated to a spectacle. Reports indicated that the raid was connected to an investigation of an Australian hostage in Iraq. After a two-week period of silence the Radio al-Tajdeed studio was rebuilt and al-Massari broadcast a 40-minute long speech by "Sheik" Abu Musab al-Zarqawi where the al Qaeda in Iraq chief justified Muslim "collateral damage." According to Soliman, al-Massari's station was the only Arab-language media outlet to air a majority of the speech unedited.

Listeners, meanwhile, were encouraged to participate in the group's Arabic-language Internet community, the Tajdeed Forum. The message board, which is still online as of writing, served as a platform for the proliferation of instructional videos on terrorism, gory footage of terrorist attacks in Iraq, scores of images, links to al Qaeda Web sites, al Qaeda audio and video, and the like. Al Qaeda Organization in Iraq, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade and other al Qaeda-related terror groups often posted messages and promotional materials on the Tajdeed Forum.

Al-Tajdeed and the Belgian Airtime Broker
British regulators, however, have been powerless to act, according to a representative of the British regulatory authority Ofcom who spoke with CRW on condition of anonymity. Although the programs were recorded in London, Radio al-Tajdeed's satellite feed was physically located in Paris, France, where jurisdiction of the nature and content of the programming ultimately fell.

To outwit British laws, the station used the services of Ludo Maes, a one-time short wave radio enthusiast and broadcast airtime broker based in Belgium, to locate facilities outside of London's jurisdiction. Maes, who did not answer a request for an interview, had done this before for another equally disturbing client - Saad al-Fagih's Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA).

The MIRA station, Sawt al-Islah (Voice of Reform), initially broadcast on short wave, where its signal was quickly obliterated by Saudi jamming. To overcome the obstacle, Maes placed them on a satellite through the uplink facilities of T-Systems in Germany. The German firm quickly dropped the program as a client after its uplink feed was jammed and legally threatened by the Saudi government.

Sawt al-Islah faced an uncertain future in December 2003 when the U.S. added al-Fagih and MIRA to the State Department list of terrorists. Shortly thereafter, al-Fagih was added to the United Nations Consolidated List of terrorists. Despite these developments and alarming ties with al Qaeda, Maes retained the program as a client, according to a list of clients on his Web site, www.airtime.be/whose.html, and then took on Radio al-Tajdeed and a third Arabic-language program called "Al-Balagh," of which little to nothing is known.

More recently, Maes added a client that few international broadcasters would touch - Zwart of Wit (Black or White), a program that promotes a Belgian political party that many Europeans consider to fall into the Neo-Nazi category. His colleagues in the airtime brokering industry are without words as to why he would keep these groups as clients and disappointed that he would profit - if not outright sympathize - with the messages their programs deliver.

MIRA and Maes were eventually forced to locate a dedicated uplink facility for Sawt al-Islah to both hide its location from the Saudis and isolate the program from other commercial programming in the event of jamming. Now renamed "Debate," the program continues to broadcast from London to an uplink facility believed to be located in Europe.

Maes, meanwhile, placed Radio al-Tajdeed on Globecast, a French broadcast service provider that rents bandwidth to al-Massari to feed the audio up to the Hotbird 6 satellite - a satellite administered by another French firm, Eutelsat.

Neither Globecast nor Eutelsat would respond to inquiries on Radio al-Tajdeed.

According to industry insiders international broadcasters monitor foreign language commercial programming and hire translators when needed, to avoid potential legal trouble. While it is not known if either Globecast or Eutelsat took the effort to monitor Radio al-Tajdeed, it is unlikely that the station would have remained on the air had they done so.

Anger of al-Tajdeed Listeners
With Radio al-Tajdeed silent, its voice replaced with test tones, and the British media in a frenzy over how al-Massari got away with airing the de facto Voice of al Qaeda radio for a year and a half, listeners posted angry messages on the Tajdeed Forum.

One listener, who believed that the station was forcibly shut down, wrote that the closure was as "humiliating" as the history of British colonialization in the Arab world and predicted that it would further the increase of "homosexuality and Zionist labor control," thereby promoting more Muslims to follow the "values and principles" of Islam.

Another listener railed against the United States, writing that "America must know that the militants increase power every day... (T)he closure of Radio al-Tajdeed or Tajdeed Forum does not harm a thing but rather bestows on us a power, God willing. They cannot stop our march nor further news of the destruction of American citizens and the fading of the idol of this age, the damnable America..."

Al-Massari, himself, refuses to speak with journalists and probably anticipates, along with his terror-weary neighbors in London, receipt of a deportation notice.
 
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Radio Al Tajdeed (Renewal Radio)
Radio Al Tajdeed is run by the London-based Party for Islamic Renewal, a Saudi exile group sympathetic with and widely believed to be tied to the Saudi branch of al Qaeda. The satellite radio program and the group's Internet campaign incite violence against non-Muslims, promote Holocaust denial, and publicize videos of the murder and beheadings of non-Muslims in Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In May 2005 its studios were raided by British authorities during a live broadcast.
 
 
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