07.24.2003 12:00 PM
Cuba identified as likely jamming source of U.S. satellite programming to Iran

The mysterious jamming of U.S. satellite TV programming destined for Iran seems to be originating from Havana, Cuba, although the Castro government denies responsibility.

The jamming, which seems to have coincided with the fourth anniversary of student protests in Iran that led to a government crackdown and international criticism, has been tracked by Loral Skynet engineers.

During the first half of July the jamming blocked private and U.S. government-funded satellite programs from reaching their intended audiences. Lately, however, it seems to have become intermittent.

Cuba’s foreign ministry denied responsibility for the jamming. In its statement, the ministry acknowledged that the Cuban government claimed the “sovereign right” to defend its airwaves from “subversive” TV and radio broadcasts originating in the United States and pointed to Radio and Television Marti as examples.

But on the issue of the jammed U.S. satellite TV programming intended for Iran, the Cuban government has pledged to investigate the interference.

The U.S. State Department has said the interference appears to be intentional. While experts agree that the jamming could originate in many parts of eastern North and Latin America, Cuba has been singled out because the jamming activity against a U.S. satellite wouldn’t be likely to raise eyebrows and cause a swift response.

Speculation about the source of the jamming runs the gamut from a former Soviet communications installation in Lourdes near Havana to the Iran embassy in Havana. Jamming a satellite transponder isn’t very difficult, while pinning down the source is far more troublesome.

In early July, the Voice of America launched its own Persian-language satellite news programming directed at Iran. Additionally, several U.S.-based private concerns operate satellite channels to deliver unbiased news to Iran. Some have provided a forum for Iranian callers to air up-to-the-minute reports of steps taken by the Iranian government to reign in protests calling for reform. It is illegal to own satellite dishes and receivers in Iran, although the law is widely ignored.

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