By Stephen McKinley
The website for the weekly radio show “Radio Free Eireann” was removed from the Internet last Thursday, allegedly because it was perceived to support terrorism.
The site, iraradio.com, was the repository for the archives of “Radio Free Eireann,” dating back to 1995. It was hosted on the servers of a Kansas City company, Cosmic Entertainment, which in turn takes its server space from a company called Hypervine, a subsidiary of telecommunications company Skynet.
A holding page has replaced the original site informing listeners of the removal, and suggesting that Cosmic’s server space suppliers at Hypervine may be indulging in censorship.
A Hypervine representative, according to Cosmic’s founder Travis E. Towle, told him and his lawyer that iraradio.com and two other radio archive websites, “Al Lewis Live” and “Our Americas,” “had to go,” after the company had been “strongly advised” to take them down by the Office of Homeland Security because the sites were perceived to be supporting terrorism.
All of the radio shows are broadcast by WBAI out of their Wall Street offices.
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The Homeland Security office was created by President Bush in the wake of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on Sept. 1, and will be headed up by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. According to a message posted on the iraradio.com site, the Office of Homeland Security can seize all assets “with or without notice and/or any real or unreasonable evidence of any company or person that helps, supports or does anything that can be called or labeled terrorism or is found to be connected to terrorism in any way or means possible.”
However, the Office of Homeland Security has only this week acquired office space in the west wing of the White House, and the task of marshalling more than 40 government agencies under a single umbrella has yet to begin.
Indeed, according to sources in Washington, D.C., Ridge will not take up his new post until Oct. 8, and the precise nature of the new department is still the subject of intense debate on Capitol Hill — nor does it yet have a telephone number.
Saturday’s “Radio Free Eireann” show went ahead as normal, according to host John McDonagh. The subject of debate was the hunger strikes in Turkey and also the free speech issues involved in the predicament facing the show and its website. “Radio Free Eireann,” originally called “Behind the Green Curtain,” has been broadcasting since 1980.
“We got into the topic of why the site went down,” McDonagh said. “Cosmic Entertainment’s lawyer got a call from Hypervine, telling them that the sites had to go.”
McDonagh speculated that there was a degree of self-censorship going on after the Sept. 11 attacks, perhaps among employees of Hypervine and its parent company, Skytel, and suggested that the likelihood of the order coming from the Office of Homeland Security was slim.
Neither Hypervine nor Skytel representatives were available for comment to the Echo and did not return telephone messages.
Towle of Cosmic Entertainment acknowledged that he had received hundreds of emails since Sept. 11 condemning his company for “supporting terrorism,” and he said that Hypervine had received emails and telephone messages to the same effect. Towle said that “Radio Free Eireann” was “25 percent of my business.”
“I would put the site back up again, but I need guarantees that someone won’t come after me again,” he said.
Towle has posted one of the emails that he received at the iraradio.com website, which apparently came from Sweden.
“To my astonishment you are advertising a radio station promoting terrorism with a thinly veiled disguise statement, which states the occupied six counties of Northern Ireland by the British.”
“After the recent terror tragedies that have happened in the country that you are based in, that is a disgrace that you are promoting such a hateful and inaccurate, talk show site ‘IRA Radio Free Eireann.’ ”
“We’re a news-gathering service,” McDonagh said in response. “We have voices on our show that our government and other people don’t necessarily like to hear.”