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Iranian Satellite Jamming Causes Storm Of Controversy

A dust storm engulfs Tehran on June 2. The storm killed five people, injured several dozen more, and knocked out power to around 50,000 homes in the Iranian capital.

The Iranian regime has long used signal jamming to disrupt the flow of information into the Islamic republic, but it couldn't have forecast the strategy's deadly consequences.

Satellite-jamming technology is being blamed for disrupting Iran's ability to predict a major dust storm that hit Tehran in June, killing five people.

In a report presented to parliament this week, the Iran Meteorological Organization claimed it was unable to forecast the massive dust storm because of signals emitted by jamming devices, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency on July 22.

In addition to the five killed, the June 2 storm injured several dozen people and knocked out power to around 50,000 homes in the capital, according to Iranian media reports.

ISNA quoted Iran Meteorological Organization official Ahad Vazifeh as saying that pertinent authorities had been warned of the effect of jamming signals on meteorology forecasts before the deadly storm hit Tehran.

Iran has been known to use jamming technology to prevent satellite transmissions of foreign-based television and radio channels.

The government seems to intensify its jamming efforts during sensitive times, such as the widespread protests that followed Iran's 2009 presidential election, and the Arab Spring revolutions.

Iranian officials have acknowledged that signal jamming takes place, and have even warned of potentially negative consequences, including health dangers posed by signal jamming.

In February, the Iranian Health Ministry set up a committee to investigate whether the government’s jamming of satellite signals could pose a health risk to citizens.

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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan is acting editor for Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan in the Central Newsroom at RFE/RL. Previously, he was a correspondent and reported from Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Turkey. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2011, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed to several Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.