Alhurra Television’s broadcasts of the historic events in Libya have been jammed on the Nilesat satellite system since Feb. 23. The Nilesat system, one of the most popular satellite systems in the region, also carries Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.
The radio signals on Nilesat of Radio Sawa (in Arabic), Radio Farda (in Persian), Radio Free Iraq (in Arabic) and Voice of America (in Kurdish) have also faced intermittent interference in Nilesat.
“The right to freedom of information is universal and essential amidst the tumultuous events in the region,” said Walter Isaacson, chair of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees all U.S. international broadcasting including Alhurra TV, VOA and RFE. “Efforts, including satellite jamming, to prevent people in the Middle East and North Africa from getting much-needed accurate news and information are abhorrent.”
Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle have reported similar, deliberate and harmful interferences with satellite transmissions.
The jamming of the satellite system comes at the height of U.S. international broadcasting’s extensive coverage of the uprising and violence in Libya. Alhurra has provided live, continuous coverage since protests began Feb. 16. Surge broadcasting has included first person accounts from Tripoli, Benghazi, Tubruk and Misratah. Alhurra is also soliciting feedback from viewers in Libya and asking them to call in and report what they are witnessing, as well as sending video and still images through Facebook and YouTube. Alhurra’s correspondents in Benghazi are interviewing protesters who say they are demonstrating because they want Libya to be a free country and their children to live in a democracy. Alhurra is also providing viewers with the American perspective through talk shows and analysis from American experts on Libya and the Middle East.
The coverage of Libya follows Alhurra’s in-depth reporting from Egypt, where surveys showed that 25 percent of Egyptian adults were tuning into Alhurra for the latest news on the demonstrations in Tahrir Square and across Egypt.
Intermittent but sustained interference to Alhurra Television meant viewers first lost images and then their screens went black between Feb. 23 and 27. Radio channels continued to be jammed on Nilesat as of Feb. 28. Jamming this month has also affected TV and radio broadcasts to Iran for VOA’s Persian News Network and Radio Farda.