A Uganda-based human rights group accused the Ethiopian government of jamming international broadcasts from Deutsche Welle and Voice of America radios in a statement today.
The chairman of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net), Hassan Shire Sheikh, says the Ethiopian government has been intentionally jamming the Amharic language broadcasting of Deutsche Welle’s as well as VOA’s Afan Oromo and Amharic broadcasts which typically reach a combined total of more than 20 million listeners in the Horn of Africa.
Hassan Shire Sheikh says the Ethiopian government’s action has deprived radio audiences in the Horn of Africa of their only uncensored news.
“The Ethiopian government, as signals indicate, established some stations to disturb purposefully the signals coming from Deutsche Welle and VOA and who knows other international media houses to deny the basic rights of the people to know what is going on in their own country.”
Sheikh says the actions of the Ethiopian government are contrary to the democratic rights promulgated in the countries constitution. He said, the Ethiopian government is clearly moving towards a dictatorship by dislodging democratic principles it claims to follow.
“The government has been cracking down on democratic forces, including legitimate voices of the Ethiopian people, such as civil society, political leaders and media houses within the country” he said. “Now, as if that is not enough, they have started to deny the Ethiopian people the right to information, cracking down on the international media houses – the only sources of independent information.”
The Ethiopian government calls the allegations baseless and claims that the VOA and Deutsche Welle broadcasts can be herd throughout Ethiopia, unless there are technical problems from the broadcasters themselves. Zemedkun Tekle, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government, says his government’s hands are clean. “This is a baseless false accusation,” says Zemedkun. “The two radio stations can be clearly heard throughout Ethiopia.”
Zemedkun added that it is against his government’s policy to jam broadcasts. “Jamming these radio station requires huge amounts of money which the Ethiopian government is not willing to spend.” He added, “We have other priorities to spend such good money. ”
In its annual survey of conditions for press freedom the Paris-based media rights group, Reporters Without Borders, ranked Ethiopian 150th out of 169 countries media in 2007.