US, European Broadcasters Condemn Jamming From Syria

Washington, D.C. — Major US and European broadcasters are charging that deliberate electronic interference, known as jamming, that has intermittently disrupted satellite signals across Europe and the Middle East since the start of this week is emanating from Syria.

The jamming has hit satellites operated by Eutelsat, a European satellite operator, affecting TV and radio programs reaching millions of households. The Paris-based Eutelsat confirmed that the disruptive signals originate from Syria.

The Directors General of five major public-service international broadcasters in Europe and the United States, known as the DG5, expressed strong criticism of the jamming, which has disrupted broadcasts in an arc from Russia through Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and other U.S.-funded international broadcasters, said signals to a number of countries, ranging from Iran to Iraq to Ukraine, lost audio and video. Other members of the DG5 – Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France – France 24, British Broadcasting Corporation, Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW), Radio Netherlands Worldwide – also suffered from interference, and joined in protesting.

“We strongly condemn this deliberate interference with news and information programs,” said Richard M. Lobo, Director of the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau. “While it may be targeted to prevent the free flow of information in countries with restrictive media environments, the widespread and indiscriminate nature of this jamming denies millions of people access to information. The outrageous jamming of our satellite signals and those of other broadcasters is a violation of international agreements,”  Lobo noted.

“Deliberate interference such as the jamming of transmissions is a blatant violation of international regulations concerning the use of satellites and we strongly condemn any practice designed to disrupt audiences’ free access to news and information,” the BBC said in a statement issued Oct. 18.

Deutsche Welle Director General Erik Bettermann accused Iran of repeated efforts to jam satellite broadcasts from reaching an Iranian audience.

A previous episode of jamming, on October 3-4, was traced to Iran. That coincided with reports of street demonstrations and mass arrests of Iranians protesting falling currency exchange rates.

The latest round of jamming began on October 15; it has escalated steadily since then, according to the broadcasters. That’s the day Eutelsat announced it was terminating transmission of 19 channels belonging to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

Jamming is prohibited under the rules of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).  Iran is an ITU member and a participant at the organization’s meetings.  It has interfered with U.S.-sponsored civilian broadcasting overseas in the past, including an incident in early 2010.

At its February 2012 meeting, the ITU called upon the world’s nations to take “necessary actions” to stop intentional interference with satellite transmissions. Earlier, the DG5 members called for action against jamming.

The BBG oversees all US non-military international broadcasts. BBG services affected by the latest round of jamming include: VOA, RFE/RL and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.