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A Dialogue Of The Unhearing And Unheard

The latest form of dictatorships' "classical music" -- blocking access to websites
The latest form of dictatorships' "classical music" -- blocking access to websites
Radio jamming is the classical music of dictatorship. Now that music is being played in Iran, being played at full volume: Western radio stations broadcasting in Persian can no longer be heard there.

I have my own history of relations with this classical music. I first went on the air on Radio Liberty in 1978, and that is when I was jammed for the first time. After a few years, I worked at the Russian Service of the BBC to the same Cold War accompaniment.

My voice, of course, doesn't matter. But how did these people dare to deprive others of the gift of hearing? It is God's gift or, if you prefer, Allah's.

This gift was generously restored to the Soviet people in 1988. A bit later I began gathering materials for a broadcast called "The Man Who Jammed Me." A Lithuanian colleague gave me the Moscow telephone numbers of veterans of the jamming service, and I began calling them up.

I couldn't reach Anatoly Stepanovich Batyushkov of Goskomsvyaz (the State Communications Committee) -- he was relaxing at a sanatorium. But I was able to chat with Natalya Yevgenevna Krestyaninova, a retired jammer of the airwaves.

She declined to participate in my broadcast -- said she had things to do at home, hadn't had anything to do with such matters for years, had grandchildren.... Maybe I didn't take the right tone in speaking with her? Maybe I should have been more good-natured -- after all, one might say that we worked in the same business for years.

Yes, I should have greeted her warmly and said: "Natalya Yevgenevna, darling, don't you recognize me? No? It's Igor! Which Igor? Igor Pomerantsev. Surely you remember me! You haven't forgotten how I went on the air in August 1978, back in the Munich days? First in Ukrainian and later in Russian? And you don't remember hearing me on the BBC? No? Oh well, forgive me. I understand -- you were cut off. Of course."

That's the way I should have spoken to her. I didn't even think to ask how many grandchildren she had or what their names are or where they go to school or what their favorite subjects are. But I didn't think of it, and it would have been awkward to call her back.

Now, to paraphrase the poet Boris Pasternak, what millennium is it in Iran? The second. And what year? Next month, the year 1389 will begin. Happy New Year.

Igor Pomerantsev is a broadcaster with RFE/RL's Russian Service. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL