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article imageOp-Ed: America could learn from rappers' tribute to Radio Free Europe

By Ted Lipien     Apr 7, 2013 in Entertainment
Truckee - Led by Peja of the Polish rap group Slums Attack, Europe's rappers recorded a multilingual tribute to political and cultural freedom message of the American-funded station Radio Free Europe.
Using historical film footage of Radio Free Europe broadcasters, rappers from several European countries make statements similar to dissident voices heard on the station before the fall of the Iron Curtain. During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe broadcast both news commentary and music, which communists in Poland and other Soviet-dominated nations tried unsuccessfully to silence through jamming of radio signals.
But in today's unusable and not much freer world, the station's important message of freedom to nations which continue to suffer under authoritarian regimes is becoming unfortunately much weaker due to decreased U.S. funding and growing indifference in America to showing solidarity with dissidents who fight for their rights in countries like China, Iran and Russia. The song recorded by Slums Attack and other European rappers serves above all as a reminder that the struggle against political oppression and against banality of popular culture which ignores this struggle, is both timeless and universal.
"Radio Wolna Europa" (Radio Free Europe) is the first single of the Slums Attack latest album "CNO2" released in mid-September 2012. The video for the song was recorded in Poland, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and Italy. It includes guest appearances by DeFuckTo (Czech Republic), Azyl (Germany), Sniper (Lithuania), Clementino (Italy), R-MC and Loo (Belgium), Shazaam (Sweden), Hijack (UK) and Gandzior (Poland).
Monuments to victims of communism were used as a backdrop for some of the scenes in the video. Slums Attack is based in Poznan, where a protest by Polish workers in June 1956 developed into a series of strikes and demonstrations against the communist regime during which 67 people were killed according to official figures, but probably many more died.
„Radio Wolna Europa" jest długim, ale bardzo ciekawym i niezwykle ważnym utworem -- mówi Peja. Udowadniamy, jak bardzo ponadnarodowy, a co za tym idzie uniwersalny jest sam hip-hop.
"Radio Free Europe" is a long, but a very interesting and especially important song -- says Peja, the frontman of the Polish rap group Slums Attack. We prove how hip-hop itself is very much transnational, and therefore universal.
Radio Free Europe, now called Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), continues to provide uncensored news and commentary to freedom-deprived Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, Russia and other countries, but recent U.S. budget cuts and arbitrary dismissals of RFE/RL journalists have silenced many of the station's broadcasts and turned some of its websites into tabloid outlets.
Fortunately, RFE/RL is now being returned to its former high journalistic standards by new acting president, former NPR executive Kevin Klose. Unfortunately, the station is also facing a major funding crisis.
Some of the more active members of the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the station's U.S. government sponsor, are trying to shake up their bureaucratic staff and give their journalists more resources. They are frustrated in their reform efforts, however, by bureaucratic resistance, shortage of funding and the indifference with which the Administration and the Congress treat U.S. international broadcasting. Billions of dollars are spent on weapons, but very little is spent on the power and possibility of free speech in other nations.
Another problem has been the appointment as members of the BBG board of executives whose private companies do business in countries like Russia and China. They may not be as active or as interested in supporting hard-hitting journalism as their colleagues who have a background in public service or human rights advocacy.
Hopefully, thanks to the hard work of dedicated BBG members like Ambassador Victor Ashe, Susan McCue and Michael Meehan, U.S. international broadcasting may once again serve its freedom and public diplomacy role. That's U.S. public diplomacy with a conscience and a human rights focus, as opposed to public diplomacy that serves only immediate foreign policy and economic goals. But sufficient funding, good management and journalistic independence are essential for the success of America's long-term soft power.
Americans have forgotten how effective dissident voices from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and Voice of America (VOA) were in peacefully transforming unfree societies at a minimal cost. But as powerful as it is, the message of dissent, human rights and freedom cannot be delivered completely for free and without upsetting foreign powers like Russia and China, or even the White House and the State Department. Europe's rappers' tribute to RFE serves as a reminder that while Central and Eastern Europe are now largely democratic, many less fortunate nations still need a platform for uncensored, dissident voices and a show of solidarity from America.
Ted Lipien listened to Radio Free Europe while growing up in communist-ruled Poland and later served as Voice of America (VOA) acting associate director. He is a co-founder of the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB).
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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