17 June 2012 [ESAT News] The disagreement between Ethiopian Government and the regional satellite carrier- ArabSat- doesn’t appear to be over yet. There has been an ongoing accusation by ArabSat that strong jamming signals emanating from Ethiopia to stymie satellite transmissions of ESAT and Eritrean Government’s satellite broadcast are disturbing a whole set of other transmissions in the region. As a result ArabSat was forced to take the transmissions in the middle of the controversy off air.
Only a few weeks ago this website reported the news that a delegation led by the country’s Minister of Communication Bereket Simon gave a written assurance to the Satellite carrier-Arab Sat that it won’t jam Eritrean Television’s satellite broadcast from then on. However there was a condition set forth by the Ethiopian government for Eritrean Television to obey so that his government can follow through with the assurance. The two conditions are the Eritrean Television shouldn’t be carrying any content from ESAT’s online archive, and political opinions of Ethiopian government’s opposition entities operating inside of Eritrea or anywhere else. If the Eritrean government is willing to obey those two conditions, Mr. Bereket promised that not only would his government stop jamming the satellite transmission it will also suspend airing the daily one hour transmission of the Eritrean prodemocracy opposition movement’s broadcast from Ethiopia. The Eritrean government’s response was less than positive. Simply put, the reply from representatives of the Eritrean Government was, ‘If the Ethiopian government so wishes, it can increase the daily one hour transmission of the Eritrean opposition to a 24 hour.”
After several negotiation efforts and assurances given by the Ethiopian Government, the Ethiopian Television satellite transmission on ArabSat has now been restored. Our reporter was able to talk to one middle ranking Ethiopian government official privy to the negotiation. According to this source, Mr. Bereket was very vehement about ESAT during his talk with ArabSat administration. He didn’t mince his words when he told the officials what his government has in store if ESAT’s transmission is to come back on ArabSat. Bereket said his government will do all what is necessary to safeguard the country’s national security. However, he didn’t explicitly say what the government has in store. Ethiopian government can tolerate the Eritrean Television transmission on ArabSat. However, Bereket argued, ESAT is an organ of Ginbot7 Opposition Movement that has been labelled as a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian parliament. According to Bereket, ESAT is a media force bent on to cause anarchy in the country. As a result the Ethiopian Government doesn’t in any way tolerate ESAT‘s comeback on ArabSat. Mr. Bereket also warned that his government wouldn’t take responsibility for any effects of actions his government could take should ESAT’s transmission is to come on ArabSat.
ArabSat authorities on their part expressed to Bereket their unreserved right for discretion of what stations to host on their satellite. According to our source, Bereket didn’t seem happy with ArabSat’s official reply. He snap opened his briefcase and pulled out what he called DVDs of translations of incriminating content from ESAT’s previous transmissions. The ArabSat officials didn’t appear to be impressed with the exhibit and said to Bereket that they don’t have the time to go through the DVDs there and then. Among the stacks of DVDs, one of the exhibit content was an interview ESAT did with Father Nikodimos Asfaw, an Orthodox Church clergy.
One ArabSat official our reporter has talked to expressed his surprise at the low quality argument made by the Ethiopian delegation as to why ESAT’s transmission shouldn’t be carried by ArabSat. The official said he found the distance the Ethiopian government is willing to travel to stifle opposition voices is quite revealing.
The official then said the Ethiopian government’s accusation of ESAT doesn’t hold water. ESAT will eventually be returned to ArabSat. But the company requested patience as it is currently in the process of adopting and testing new technologies to beef up its ability to deal with interferences.
He concluded his private remark by saying that ESAT has literally become an issue of serious contention between the Ethiopian government and ArabSat.
It is recalled that Aljazeera has faced intermittent disturbance in its English language satellite transmission to Ethiopia and the surrounding countries during the height of the Arab Spring in Egypt and has had to change its broadcast channels to circumvent the incessant jamming effort by the Ethiopian government. International press freedom organizations and US governments state department have denounced the Ethiopian government’s jamming effort.