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Iranian Rights Activists Criticize Tehran's Satellite Jamming


An Iranian man walks past a satellite dish on a rooftop in northern Tehran, January 15, 2011.

An Iranian man walks past a satellite dish on a rooftop in northern Tehran, January 15, 2011.

Two prominent Iranian human rights activists are calling on the European Union and United States to take action against European satellite companies who host Iranian state programming.

Nobel Peace Prize winner and human-rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi and the director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran Hadi Ghaemi made the comments on Friday in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal Europe.

Ebadi and Ghaemi criticize satellite companies, Eutelsat and Arqiva, for broadcasting the "libelous programs" of the Iranian government, while allowing Tehran to jam U.S. and European broadcasting into Iran via the same companies' satellites.

Ghaemi spoke to VOA's Persian News Network on Friday, saying Iran uses its state-run media outlets to defame anyone who speaks out against the state.

"The Iranian radio and television actually work very closely with the intelligence and security forces to the point that we have many testimonies of former detainees that have been interrogated by cameraman and so called staff of the IRIB," said Ghaemi.

The human rights activist said the European satellite companies are not doing anything to stop the Iranian government from jamming the signals of international broadcasters. He said they are instead hiding behind their contractual obligations with the Tehran.

"The companies are not necessarily breaking international law, but they are providing services to a government that is the leader in breaking international law," Ghaemi added.

The activists point out in their article that the companies have downgraded the Farsi language broadcasting of the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Voice of America from a popular satellite to a less accessible one.

International broadcasters, VOA, BBC, Deutsche Welle and others, this week condemned the "deliberate interference" of their satellite signals in countries such as Iran.

Both Eutelsat and Arqiva did not return calls from VOA seeking comment. Eutelsat issued an appeal to international and European regulatory authorities last month to end the jamming of its satellites in Iran.

Meeting in London, the directors of the broadcasting organizations issued a statement, saying they have seen an "escalation" in pressure tactics from the Iranian government on media being accessed by audiences in Iran.

The broadcasting entities urged regulatory authorities to take action against those disrupting satellite signals on the ground. They asked this issue be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the International Telecommunication Union in Geneva.

Tehran views broadcasters Voice of America, BBC Persian and Deutsche Welle as illegally beaming their programs into the country.

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