Broadcasters seek protection from Iranian ‘TV pirates’

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Foreign television stations who have accused Iran of cutting off their broadcasts to stop coverage of violent political clashes have appealed to telecoms unions to step in and shield satellites from "international piracy".

A broadcasting union put pressure on the CEPT, a European postal and telecoms body, and the International Telecoms Union (ITU) to pass a resolution to protect telecommunication satellites from the kind of interference experienced by the BBC and other channels in the Middle East.

It has also requested the involvement of the UN's Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space.

The Bruges Group of European broadcasters argues that this would be the only remedy to prevent interference or to sanction it, because there is nothing else that can be done under international law to stop such meddling.

Iran has been jamming satellites, stopping European broadcasters' Farsi-language transmissions in the Middle East and Europe since 12 June 2009, according to a statement made by Peter Horrocks, director of the BBC World Service.

"It seems to be part of a pattern of behaviour by the Iranian authorities to limit the reporting of the aftermath of the disputed election," Horrocks said.

The BBC, Germany's Deutsche Welle and a US station, American Voice, say they have had constant problems trying to report in the region, which has now culminated in heavy interference with their broadcasts.

A technical analysis carried out by satellite operators identified Iran as the territory from which interfering signals were originating.

In addition, BBC journalist John Simpson was arrested after filming demonstrations in the Iranian capital which contained scenes of police brutality.

The British public service broadcaster says it has been inundated with original content from Iranian citizens like videos, stills and personal accounts, a phenomenon which they believe has riled the Iranian authorities enough to cut off their transmission.

The Bruges group has accused Iran of systematic interference and has appealed to the governments in question "to react energetically" to the case.

"This is a deliberate operation of organised interference, aimed at specific broadcasts, which is equivalent to international piracy," the group said in its statement.

On 13 June 2009, tens of thousands of protesters poured onto the streets of Tehran to protest against the re-election of highly-controversial leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

One year on, a few thousand people from the opposition Green Movement gathered in Tehran to mark the anniversary of the disputed election, which they claim was rigged by Ahmadinejad's henchmen.

The 2009 demonstrations drew international outrage after the country's plain-clothed militia, the Basij, broke into a Tehran university campus to murder five students and then opened fire on a silent demonstration from the rooftop of a mosque three days after the result.  

Ahmadinejad is the target of widespread international criticism for his refusal to recognise Israel as a state and for a nuclear programme that is seen as a threat to peace in the region. 

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