Tuesday, November 20, 2007

BBC Monitoring confirms jamming to Ethiopia

BBC Monitoring (BBCM) can confirm that two major Western broadcasters are suffering consistent jamming of their transmissions to Ethiopia. Jamming is deliberate interference aimed at preventing the target broadcast from being heard. The standard technique is to transmit an irritating noise or continuous music on the same channel as the target.

In the latest media development to hit the Horn of Africa, the scene of numerous “radio wars” over the past quarter-century, shortwave broadcasts from Washington-based Voice of America (VOA) and Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) are now being jammed.

In both cases, the target of the jamming is radio programmes in Amharic, the lingua franca and main official language of Ethiopia. VOA is also suffering jamming of another of its regional language services. The deliberate interference appears to have started in the first half of this month, possibly on or around 12 November.

VOA and Cologne-based DW are funded by the US and German governments to broadcast radio and TV programmes to foreign audiences. The moves against the VOA and DW follow intensification by Ethiopia of its jamming of broadcasts from neighbouring Eritrea. The jamming of Eritrean state radio, the latest episode of which began in summer 2007, was stepped up in late September and early October, BBCM observed at the time.

Details of the jammed broadcasts

The VOA’s daily one-hour (1800-1900 gmt) service in Amharic is now being jammed. According to the opposition website Ethiopian Review - www.ethiopianreview.com - the jamming of VOA began on 12 November. BBCM observations have confirmed the presence of jamming signals on at least three of the five frequencies used by the VOA. The direction whence the jamming originates (established by the use of directional aerials) is consistent with the signals being transmitted from within Ethiopia.

VOA currently uses 9320, 9860, 11675, 11905 and 13870 kHz for its Amharic service. The service is not streamed on the Internet, but audio of recent broadcasts is available at www.voanews.com/horn.

On 19 November, VOA’s service in another major Ethiopian language, Oromo, was also observed to be jammed. VOA’s Oromo service broadcasts at 1730-1800 gmt, immediately before the Amharic transmission and on the same frequencies.

DW’s daily one-hour (1400-1500 gmt) service in Amharic is also being jammed. Noise interference has been observed on two of DW’s shortwave frequencies (11645 and 15640 kHz). DW recently added a third frequency (15660 kHz). At the start of its Amharic programme on 19 November it announced that this had been done in response to the jamming. The lead item in the news bulletin that followed was that the Ethiopian government had conducted air raids on villages in the Ogaden region in the southeast of the country. DW maintains a multimedia website for its Amharic service at www2.dw-world.de/amharic.

Opposition broadcasts

Ethiopia has also jammed various private opposition radio broadcasts. The country has been targeted for many years by such operators, which hire airtime (generally an hour a day or on certain days of the week) from commercial shortwave transmission facilities, including those based in Germany and the former Soviet Union. The number and identity of such broadcasts, and their schedules, often varies, depending on the availability of funds to hire shortwave airtime. Eritrea is also targeted by private opposition shortwave stations.
(Source: BBC Monitoring research 16-19 Nov 07/R Netherlands media Network Weblog)