Jordan denies it jammed Al Jazeera as channel vows to take legal action

October 1, 2010
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Jordan has “categorically” denied allegations that it was behind the jamming of Al Jazeera World Cup broadcasts in June and July.

“These allegations are baseless. The government is ready to co-operate with any team of independent experts to examine the facts, and is certain that any such examination will prove these allegations false,” Amal Jreisat, from the office of the prime minister, said. “The government also rejects the speculation and opinions expressed by sources in Al Jazeera about the reaction of Jordan to the collapse of negotiations to buy the terrestrial broadcast rights,” she wrote in a letter to the Guardian after the British daily reported that secret documents it had exclusively seen had traced the jamming to a location in Jordan.

Al Jazeera had the World Cup broadcasting rights in the Arab world.

According to Amal, Jordan had approached Al Jazeera with an offer to buy these rights almost four months before the start of the World Cup, but the pan-Arab station did not begin to negotiate until a few days before the launch.

“Four days before the kick-off, Al Jazeera made an offer, demanding $8m for the broadcast rights of 20 games of its choosing, and over $50,000 for the broadcast on each screen that would have been placed in underprivileged areas. The government did not accept the offer because it believed it was made too late and the matches offered did not justify the cost. The government respected the confidentiality of these negotiations and has maintained its professional relationship with al-Jazeera,” Amal said in the letter published on Friday.

In its statement sent to Gulf News on Thursday evening, Al Jazeera said that an extensive investigation carried out by several teams of independent international technology experts identified the exact location from where the disruption of Al Jazeera Sports’ broadcast of the 2010 FIFA World Cup originated.

“A location in Jordan was used to deliberately jam the satellite signal causing the live broadcast of the World Cup to be interrupted during numerous matches. This resulted in millions of viewers throughout the Middle East and North Africa to suffer from frequent disruptions of the broadcast,” the satellite channel said. “This action targeted Al Jazeera and was intentionally designed to deprive millions of fans across the region from enjoying this global event.  It is alarming that the source of the interruption is in fact from inside the Arab world.  We will be requesting the Jordanian government to provide a full explanation for this well-documented incident.”

Over 12 alternative satellite bouquets were launched during the period of the 2010 World Cup by Al Jazeera Sports Channel to provide the viewers in the region with several suitable alternatives, it said.

“The teams used some of the most advanced technical methods and systems in the world,” Al Jazeera said.

The Doha-based channel said that it would “continue to take every means available to hold accountable those parties and individuals responsible for these actions in order to uphold its rights and protect its audience from such acts.”

However, Radi Alkhas, CEO of the Jordan Media City (JMC), said it was technically impossible to jam a satellite feed from a mobile transmission station.

“To be able to jam a signal, it has to be through a ground station with a transmitting power stronger than the jammed signal,” Alkhas, who is also a former vice president for technology and development at Arab Radio and Television, told The Jordan Times.

“TV satellite transmission is usually from 70-400 watts. The jammer must have a transponder with a capacity of at least 500 watts. It should also have a noise generator capable of blocking the signal,” he said.

“There is no way a mobile station can do that.”

The JMC worked with Al Jazeera during the World Cup by allocating four satellite links to be used whenever signal interference occurred, Alkhas said.

“The Qatar-based satellite channel sent one of its staff members to work with JMC technicians to find alternative transmissions at the time when their signal was jammed. Even our transmission from the JMC was subject to jamming,” he said, quoted by the newspaper.

Alkhas questioned the accuracy of the Guardian’s report in identifying the coordinates where the alleged jamming took place in the Kingdom

“The margin of error in such cases ranges from 10-15km and in that case could include neighbouring countries,” he said.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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