Covert Defiance: An Interview with Former Dissident Jan Urban
Costanza, Justine A., The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs
Prior to November 1989, individuals could be detained by the Czech Communist Party simply for holding a meeting. how did you, Vaclav Havel, and other members of the dissident movement manage to hold meetings and eventually organize a mass movement?
We were never able to organize a mass movement. It simply happened through demonstrations on 17 November 1989. Remember this was before email. It was a time before mobile phones. If you needed to communicate, you did so by leaving messages and trying to meet as often as possible. On some occasions it worked. But often it did not.
Describe the media prior to the Velvet revolution in 1989 and why, despite censorship, it managed to play such an indispensable role in overthrowing the communist regime.
There were three categories of media. The first, official media, did not help at all. On the contrary it was a tool of the counterrevolution. It was the media of the regime. We had four or five different newspapers, but if you laid them all on a table, they would all cover the same topics. Sometimes they would even use the same headlines. All of them would go through censorship before being printed.
The second [category] was the unofficial independent media which had an extremely low circulation. According to secret police estimates, around 5,000 copies circulated but only about 1,000 people were able to read it each month. The foreign radio stations were the third and most powerful media that we used. Our collaboration with the Voice of America, Federal Radio Liberty, and the BBC was the most effective way of communicating our ideas and information to our citizens.
It was all about fear and security. If you were caught with an independent medium, you would get into …
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Publication information: Article title: Covert Defiance: An Interview with Former Dissident Jan Urban. Contributors: Costanza, Justine A. - Author. Magazine title: The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs. Volume: 12. Issue: 4 Publication date: Autumn 2009. Page number: 53+. © 2009 Martin Jan Stransky. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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