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Who Is Behind Iran’s 'Dangerous' Satellite Jamming?

Despite occasional crackdowns, satellite broadcasts are thought to be very popular among Iranians.
Despite occasional crackdowns, satellite broadcasts are thought to be very popular among Iranians.
That’s the question people have been asking in the Islamic republic in recent days.

While officials have acknowledged that signal jamming is taking place, and even warned of potentially negative consequences, no one in the government has stepped up to assume responsibility.

Earlier this week, Iran's Minister of Communications and Information Technology Reza Taghipour denied his department's involvement in jamming satellite signals, and said the ministry was "seriously" pursuing the case.

"It is essential to trace and identify the source of jamming as the practice has many negative consequences," he said in an August 21 interview with the Iranian parliament's Icana website.

The head of the Iranian parliament's health committee, Hossein Ali Shahriari, then reacted to Taghipour's comments by saying that the communications ministry was "very well" aware of the source of the jamming.

“But [the ministry] doesn’t want to announce it,” Shahriari said in an August 22 interview with the Asr-e Iran website, which is said to be close to Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Ghalibaf.

Shahriari also said the source of the jamming is inside the country but wouldn’t say anymore.

According to Icana, Iran's Communication Regulatory Authority, which is the country's sole radio and communications regulator, has also denied knowing anything about the source of the jamming.

The Iranian regime has long used signal jamming to disrupt the free flow of information.

It routinely jams the signal of international broadcasters, including BBC’s Persian TV and RFE/RL’s Persian Service, Radio Farda, in an attempt to prevent media coverage critical of Tehran from reaching Iranians.

The government seems to intensify its jamming efforts during sensitive times, like 2009’s antigovernment protests and the Arab Spring revolutions.

While officials are saying that the source of the current jamming is a mystery, some opposition sources have reported that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Force (IRGC) is behind it.

Meanwhile, there are growing concerns about the impact jamming has on people’s health.

Massoumeh Ebtekar, a member of Tehran’s city council, said recently that jamming is dangerous for the health of Tehran’s residents. (He also said no one in the government is admitting to being behind the jamming,)

"What we know is that these signals have an impact on people’s health and the body’s cells. As an immunologist and researcher, I'd say that these signals could be the source of many illnesses.”

Other lawmakers, and some physicians, have also warned about the health dangers posed by signal jamming.

The media has reported on Iranians, especially in Tehran, who felt dizzy and ill for no apparent reason.

Jammers work by emitting signals at the same frequency as the device they’re attempting to block.

When Belgian soldiers in Afghanistan showed symptoms of electro-hypersensitivity -- nausea and headaches – the source was believed to be the cell-phone jammer installed in their armored vehicle, which was there to protect them from explosions detonated by mobile telephones.

Satellite channels are very popular among Iranians, but there are no reliable figures on the number of Iranians who have access to satellite television.

Estimates are that 40-60 percent of people living in the capital can receive satellite broadcasts.

--Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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