International shortwave radio monitors have confirmed that VOA broadcasts in the Amharic language are being jammed. Amharic is the main official language and the language of commerce in Ethiopia.
VOA representatives in Ethiopia have been received complaints from listeners about noise drowning out its Amharic Service broadcasts. People trying to tune in can hear occasional snippets of the VOA broadcast covered by a loud crackle.
The static began February 22 on all five VOA shortwave frequencies aimed at East Africa in the 25 and 31-meter shortwave bands.
The other foreign broadcast heard in Ethiopia, the German government's Deutsche Welle Amharic language program, also reports experiencing some interference, in the past few days.
Monitors say VOA transmissions in two other Ethiopian languages, Afan Oromo and Tigrinya, are being heard normally. They are broadcast on the same frequencies, before and after the hour-long Amharic program.
VOA and Deutsche Welle were jammed around the time of the last parliament election in 2005, and again before the 2008 nationwide local elections. The next crucial parliament vote is scheduled for May 23.
In 2008, the authoritative BBC monitoring service reported it was able to determine that the jamming signals originated from within Ethiopia. This time, however, no such determination has been made.
In a telephone interview, Ethiopian Communications Office spokesman Shimelis Kemal denied any government involvement in the jamming. "This is a baseless allegation. The government doesn't espouse a policy of restricting media outlets from disseminating their messages to Ethiopian audiences," he said.
Ethiopian officials have often described VOA's Amharic Service as the 'voice of the opposition', saying its broadcasts reveal an anti-government bias. Meleskachew Ameha, an Amharic Service reporter in Addis Ababa, was detained for two weeks, last year, in a case involving alleged possession of illegal broadcast equipment. He was released without charge.
Audience research in 2008 suggested about 11 percent of adult Ethiopians regularly tune in to VOA language service broadcasts.
Voice of America Director Danforth Austin issued a statement Wednesday saying, 'VOA deplores jamming and any other form of censorship of the media'.
The Voice of America is a multi-media international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government. VOA broadcasts more than 1,500 hours of news and other programming every week in 49 languages to an audience of more than 125 million people (via Alokesh Gupta, VU3BSE, New Delhi, India http://alokeshgupta.blogspot.com/ dxldyg via WORLD OF RADIO 1503, DXLD)
[Moderator: VoA Amharic schedule from its website: 1800-1900 UTC 9320 9485 9860 11675 11905] (BDXC-UK yg via WORLD OF RADIO 1503, DXLD)
VOA AMHARIC IS JAMMED, THOROUGHLY. "In media interviews today, government spokesman Shimelis Kemal denied any government involvement. 'This is absolutely a sham,' he told CPJ, adding that 'the Ethiopian government does not support the policy of restricting foreign broadcasting services in the country. Such practices are prohibited in our constitution.'" Committee to Protect Journalists, 4 March 2010.
"As usual, spokesperson of the government dismissed it as a baseless allegation. He added, 'Ethiopia has a constitution which outlaws any act by any official organ to restrict the dissemination of broadcast material from abroad.' This continuing practice has also been confirmed by shortwave radio monitors (so says VOA)), further discrediting government credibility." Genet Mersha, nazret.com, 7 March 2010 (kimandrewelliott.com via DXLD)
Listen to these samples via the IBB RMS receiver in Addis Ababa on 10 March: 1) VOA Amharic mostly in the clear at 1817 UTC on 11905 kHz, but 2) mostly covered by jamming on that frequency by 1844. Also at 1844: 3) covered on 11675, 4) getting through a bit on 9860, 5) some background audio on 9485, and 6) covered on 9320. It seems the jammers are winning. (The only VOA Amharic transmission is at 1800-1900 UT.)
To combat jamming, the best remedy is to transmit on as many frequencies as possible, from as many azimuths as possible. The closure of the IBB relay stations in Morocco and Greece has not been helpful in this regard. Transmitters for lease will have to be found. Posted: 11 Mar 2010 (Kim Andrew Elliott, ibid.; for linx see http://kimelli.nfshost.com/index.php?id=8503 via DXLD)
It also helps to use higher frequencies if they will propagate but that is 9-10 pm in Ethiopia (by the western clock), since that increases the skip distance the jammers have to transit.
I still wonder how effective jamming on 25 and 31 m is within Ethiopia, much of which would be in the skip zone if the jammers are really around Addis. Could they be getting help from some other country at a better-positioned one-hop distance? (Glenn Hauser, OK, WORLD OF RADIO 1503, DX LISTENING DIGEST)