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VOA Amharic, Oromo Shows Jammed; Ethiopia Denies Responsibility


Short wave radio monitors have confirmed that VOA broadcasts to Ethiopia in the Amharic and Afan Oromo languages have been jammed for the past two weeks. VOA Correspondent in Addis Ababa Peter Heinlein reports Ethiopia's government denies responsibility for the interference.

Listeners to VOA's Amharic Service began complaining about November 12 that they could not hear the one-hour nightly broadcast. Amharic is the language of commerce and the main official language in Ethiopia.

In recent days, the reports from listeners and monitors confirmed that all five short-wave frequencies used by VOA are being jammed. Broadcasts by the other major western broadcaster in Amharic, Germany's Deutsche Welle, have also been blocked.

A report by the BBC monitoring service says "the direction whence the jamming originates (established by the use of directional aerials) is consistent with the signals being transmitted from within Ethiopia".*

In a telephone interview with VOA, Ethiopia's Information Ministry spokesman Zemedkun Tekle says he doubts the government is involved in jamming.

"I do not think this one is true. Of course I have seen the media reporting saying that, but we do not need, the government does not need to waste its time on doing so," he said. "I myself have not come across audiences who are saying so, but the relevant body may speak on the details, but I do not think this story is true."

The two Amharic Service broadcasts are known to have a substantial audience in the Ethiopian capital, which is a hot bed of anti-government sentiment.

Monitors also report jamming of VOA's Oromo Service, which broadcasts on the same frequencies. Oromo is the language spoken by Ethiopia's largest ethnic group.

Ethiopia is known to be blocking broadcasts from its neighbor and rival Eritrea. Monitors report the jamming has intensified in recent weeks, as tensions have risen along their disputed border.

A status report issued by the umbrella organization that oversees Voice of America, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, says VOA broadcasts to Ethiopia have previously been jammed during civil unrest in 2005, but the jamming was stopped in mid-2006.

*correction posted 28 Nov 07

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