Media Freedom Faces ‘Greatest Challenge Since the Cold War’

Media freedom faces its greatest challenge since the Cold War with Internet blocking, satellite jamming and the return of shortwave jamming said a group of leading international broadcasters today.

The statement issued on behalf of the representatives of Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France (AEF), Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) [Australia], British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) [United Kingdom], the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) [US], Deutsche Welle (DW) [Germany], Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) [Japan] and Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW), said:

“The jamming of satellite broadcasts has become a regular occurrence as regimes seek to block certain services from the being received. This jamming affects area stretching from Northern Europe to Afghanistan and as far south as Northern Africa.  We have also seen Internet blocking of services and cyber-attacks on media organisations all over the world, shortwave jamming and disruption and interference with FM broadcasts. Media freedom has not faced such a concerted campaign of disruption since the end of the Cold War.”

Marking World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the broadcasters called on all nations to recognize the legitimate role played by international broadcasts in offering free access to global media and coverage of events.

During the Cold War the jamming of radio broadcasts to east of the Iron Curtain was commonplace. European and U.S. broadcasters worked hard to overcome this in a game of cat and mouse. From the late 1990s digital satellite broadcasting has flourished delivering a wide range of programs in many languages to communities across the globe. Audiences have been able to benefit from international broadcasts that provide a different perspective on news and cultures.

The Washington D.C.-based BBG, with audiences in more than 100 countries, faces many obstacles imposed by governments around the globe — including jamming of broadcasts to China, Iran and Cuba, in violation of international communications regulations. In response to their reporting, individual journalists working with BBG’s five broadcasters, in Zimbabwe, Tibet, Mali, Belarus, and Azerbaijan, among other places, have been subject to harassment, detention and threats.

Alhurra TV’s correspondent Bashar Fahmi remains missing in Syria since he was caught up in a cross-fire while on assignment on August 20, 2012.

At a recent meeting BBG Governor Michael Meehan recounted details of other threats to BBG journalists and commended their work. “I’d like to make special mention of the people behind the scenes who work, sometimes at risk to their lives, to help bring the light of truth to people living under repressive regimes and in conflict zones,” he said.

The BBG has been working hard with fellow broadcasters and the satellite industry to counter jamming and secure media freedom. This involves seeking long term technical solutions and short term ‘fixes’ so that services can continue to be received during major political events and times of tension.   All of the leading international broadcasters are working with the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) and other United Nations bodies to recognize the profound affects that jamming is having on audiences and the industry.

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