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China 16 October 2002

Reporters Without Borders criticises the jamming of foreign radio stations, particularly the BBC’s Uzbek service

On 15th October 2002, Britain’s BBC World Service confirmed that the Chinese authorities have been jamming the frequencies of its Uzbek services for several months. "After targeting programmes in Mandarin, Uighur or Tibetan, the Beijing regime has gone a step further in repression in the Xinjiang region. This is an act of censorship which deprives millions of listeners of a news service free of Chinese state propaganda," said Robert Ménard, General Secretary of Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières), in a letter to the Foreign Minister, Tang Jiaxuan. The organisation called on the minister to stop the jamming of the BBC’s Uzbek service, but also services provided by Radio Free Asia, the Voice of America and the Voice of Tibet. Reporters Without Borders views such methods, which are condemned by the international radio frequency regulatory bodies, as "acts of piracy".

On 15th October, the BBC World Service protested to the Chinese government against the jamming of its Uzbek service, which affects listeners in Uzbekistan (except in Tashkent) and in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. Since the beginning of 2002, the Uzbek service has received complaints from listeners (five hundred thousand in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan), over interference during short wave news programmes. A BBC technician in Uzbekistan checked the nature and origin of this interference. The BBC told Reporters Without Borders that the Chinese authorities have been systematically jamming the three frequencies it uses for its programmes for Uzbek listeners since 1st September.

The Beijing government has not yet given any reason for this censorship, but it is thought to be aimed at preventing the reception of programmes in the province of Xinjiang, where the majority of the population are Moslem Uighurs whose language is very close to Uzbek. The BBC service recently interviewed Uighur dissidents about the United States decision to include a Xinjiang separatist organisation in its list of terrorist organisations. The Chinese authorities have stepped up repression of Uighur organisations since September 2001. Publications have been closed down and the security services have burned books and magazines in Uighur.

According to information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, at least seven radio services in Tibetan, Mandarin and Uighur, produced and broadcast from abroad, are currently being jammed by the Chinese government.

The editorial staff of the Tibetan services of Radio Free Asia, the Voice of America and the Voice of Tibet, as well as the Uighur service of Radio Free Asia, told Reporters Without Borders that they had been jammed since at least the beginning of 2000. The Tibet Information Network also revealed, in a report published in May 2000, the Beijing authorities’ determination to crack down on Tibetan radio services, which are very popular in the Himalayan province.

Complaints have been lodged with the international radio frequency regulatory body, but the Chinese government has failed to respect its commitments on this matter. Steps taken by the United States government to intervene with the Beijing authorities have not led to any concrete results.

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