(EFJA/IFEX) - June 16, 2011 - The Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA) has demanded that China put an end to its complicity in jamming the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and other reputable broadcasters such as the Voice of America and Deutsche Welle Amharic Services.
ESAT, which recently resumed transmissions to Ethiopia after nearly two months of interruption, drew the attention of the EFJA to the fact that the People's Republic of China has been providing technology, training and technical assistance to the regime in Ethiopia to enable it to jam ESAT's transmissions to Ethiopia. After investigating the matter, EFJA has confirmed the veracity of the allegations from many credible sources inside and outside of Ethiopia.
Kifle Mulat, President of EFJA, noted that stifling freedom of expression and undermining efforts to spread democratic values in Ethiopia sets a bad precedent in the whole of Africa.
"Ethiopia is not only the seat of the African Union but also a historic symbol of freedom in Africa as the only African nation that has never been colonized. Aiding tyrants to stifle their people and block the free flow of information is tantamount to committing unwarranted crimes against the freedom-loving people of Africa that are making sacrifices to exercise their inalienable rights and free themselves from corrupt tyrants who are hampering progress in the continent," Mr. Mulat said.
The President of EFJA also urged international organizations and nations promoting freedom and democracy to provide resources and support to the ESAT to overcome the China-backed jamming challenge that has seriously threatened the survival of ESAT, a unique grassroots media project totally funded by the Ethiopian Diaspora.
The Meles regime is currently blocking independent news websites and jamming the signals of dozens of broadcasters with the help of the Chinese government. Since its launch in April 2010, ESAT has faced intense signal interference that has disrupted its transmissions six times within the last year. Mr. Mulat further noted that the government of China must realize the fact that collaborating with African tyrants and exporting tools of repression to countries like Ethiopia is an inexcusable act that will further tarnish the image of China as a sponsor of tyranny and oppression.
ESAT was set up by a group of Ethiopian exiled journalists and pro-democracy activists to create an alternative media outlet for the people of Ethiopia, a country where freedom of expression has been criminalized. EFJA is seriously concerned over the collaboration of oppressive regimes to make life difficult not only for media organizations and journalists but also ordinary citizens who are denied a voice in their own country.
Article 29 of the current Ethiopian constitution stipulates: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression without any interference. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of his choice." But the Meles regime routinely violates the letters of its own constitution. Hundreds of journalists have been forced into exile to escape illegal detention, harassment, torture and attacks.
EFJA takes note of the fact that ESAT has been forced to change satellite service providers at least four times in the last year. It started broadcasting its programs to Ethiopia on Arabsat but was forced off air due to intense signal interference and diplomatic pressure. According to ESAT, a similar effort to continue broadcasting on Thaicon was frustrated after a few months again because of intense diplomatic pressure. But ESAT's team continued transmissions on Intelsat, an American satellite company. While a diplomatic effort to disrupt ESAT transmissions failed, the Meles regime managed to jam ESAT's signals using the jamming equipment provided by the Chinese government. EFJA expressed it solidarity and admiration for ESAT for its unrelenting efforts to create a powerful media platform for Ethiopians denied of the right to access uncensored news and information.
ESAT, which has studios in Amsterdam, Washington DC and London, is currently transmitting 24/7 on ABS1 Satellite, C-Band at 75 East Downlink: 3.480 GHz Vertical (3480), Symbol: 1.852 Msps (1852), FEC 2/3. It has plans to transmit on a Ku-Band and shortwave radio with a view to reaching a wider audience in Ethiopia. ESAT also webcasts its transmissions on http://www.ethsat.com