5 March 1956
On the evening of 5 March 1956, Britain began to jam Radio Athens’ broadcasts to Cyrpus, in order to silence the station which had championed the cause of anti-British insurgents calling for political union with Greece, a demand which was strongly supported by the vast majority of the island’s Greek population.1 Two months earlier, Lord Reading, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, had denounced the station’s ‘Anglophobic incitements and mendacities’ and the Cabinet had given the island’s governor, Field Marshal Sir John Harding, the authority to go ahead, should the nationalists insist on continuing the struggle for full independence from London.2
Even in Britain, the decision was not uncontroversial, with Labour MPs drawing up a motion deploring the radio blackout and demanding that the government ‘reaffirm the traditional British acceptance of the principle of free speech in whatever form.’3 One of its leading signatories, the Labour MP for Swindon Francis Noel-Baker, condemned the censorship in the House of Commons as an ‘ill-considered, ineffective and humiliating confession of failure.’4 Even The Times, normally hawkish on imperial matters, considered the measure extreme and counter productive. It reminded readers that we had previously denounced ‘Russia’s post war (radio) jamming operation… as a deplorable and retrograde operation born of a basic insecurity in the face of liberty of expression,’ and warned that ‘few steps Britain has taken since the war could do her greater damage for smaller gain.’5
- Britain Jams Athens Radio,’ The Western Mail, 6 March 1956, p. 1 and Martin Bell, The End of Empire: The Cyprus Emergency: A Soldier’s Story, Pen and Sword, Barnsley, p. 52.
- ‘Jamming of Athens Broadcasts,’ The Times, 28 January 1956, p. 6.
- ‘Socialist Motion of Protest,’ The Birmingham Daily Post, 31 January 1956, p. 9.
- ‘Athens Radio “jamming” may not be necessary,’ The Belfast News-letter, 31 January 1956, p. 7.
- ‘A Grave Step,’ The Times, 27 January 1956, p. 9.
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