Ethiopia accused of jamming ArabSat – technology costs up to $50,000

By Daniel Berhane

ArabSat logoThe satellite operator, ArabSat (Arab Satellite Communication Organisation) claimed last week that “many TV channels on-board its fleet of satellites have been the subject of intentional jamming for the past week” and the  that the interference originated from Ethiopian territories.

There was no reaction from Ethiopian officials so far. Though, it is speculated that it might have been directed to the ESAT, which is sponsored by the Eritrean regime – an arch enemy of Ethiopia.

According to the media reports, ArabSat claimed that:

“Arabsat expresses its resentment for such an illegal act and is surprise for this vandalism as there are no Ethiopian or Eritrean channels broadcast within Arabsat DTH bouquets. This jamming may be aimed at some opponents channels for one of the two countries channels that are broadcasted on board satellites near Arabsat 26 degrees East neighbourhood or on board other satellites which Arabsat has no relation with.

Arabsat will follow up the matter and take all appropriate actions to prosecute the culprit at the judicial authorities and the international organization of frequencies and any legal means that may deem appropriate to ensure that any damage already incurred or to be incurred by the noise, will not go without legal action, regardless of whether this damage is direct or indirect.”

It was not immediately clear what legal avenues Arabsat wishes to use, in the absence an international legal regime governing the matter.

Following ArabSat’s statement, Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) issued statements making similar accusations against Addis Ababa.

However, it is not unlikely that Ethiopia could be using jamming technologies as the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi made it public, in 2011, that the government’s intends to block “destabilizing broadcasts” when the technological capacity to do is acquired.

Researches regarding jamming practices indicate that the technology used for jamming can be broadly classified into Orbital Jamming and Terrestrial jamming. Orbital jamming method blocks the signals from “everyone, everywhere”, while the Terrestrial jamming technology affects up to 20 killometers radius.

The purchase prices of the jamming instruments for Orbital jamming ranges from 20,000 – 50,000 US dollars, according to the researches conducted on the Iranian jamming practices.

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