Coverage of this year’s World Cup football finals in South Africa by the Al-Jazeera satellite television was jammed from Jordan, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported in today’s edition. “Mysterious jamming of TV broadcasts of the summer’s World Cup by the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera has been traced to Jordan, which appears to have retaliated angrily after the collapse of a deal that would have allowed football fans there free access to the matches,” the paper reported.
“Secret documents seen exclusively by the Guardian trace five episodes of jamming definitively to a location near Salt in Jordan, northeast of the capital Amman, confirmed by technical teams using geolocation technology. “The co-ordinates identified were 32.125N 35.766E. It is accurate to within a range of three to five kilometres (one to three miles).”
Jordanian officials were not immediately available to comment on the reported jamming, which infuriated million of fans who had payed in advance for coverage of the tournament only to receive blank screens, pixelated images or commentary in the wrong languages.
The Guardian said the interference to the broadcasts by the Qatar-based channel over the Nilesat and Arabsat satellites had affected a total of eight games. “There was speculation that Egypt or Saudi Arabia, both hostile to the channel, were involved, though the network has never named any suspects or gone public with the results of its own investigation,” the paper said. “Experts say the jamming was unlikely to have been done without the knowledge of the Jordanian authorities. ‘It was a very sophisticated case,’ said one.”
Al-Jazeera had exclusive pay-TV rights to broadcast World Cup matches across the Middle East from North Africa to Iran and charged up to 150 dollars for one-month subscription packages or cards to see the games. “Jordan’s King Abdullah, a keen football fan, sent a close adviser to negotiate the deal with Al-Jazeera,” the Guardian reported. “When it collapsed on the eve of the games, one Jordanian official complained that the network’s stance was ‘based on a political agenda and has nothing to do with commercial or any other purposes’,” it added.
The paper quoted sources at Al-Jazeera as saying King Abdullah had asked the channel to provide giant television screens in public places where Jordanians could watch the games free. “It refused, saying other Arab countries would expect similarly favourable treatment,” the report said.
Al-Jazeera has revolutionised the Arabic-language media and reporting on the Middle East since its foundation in 1996 but at the expense of offending many Arab governments, including that of Jordan.
Update 1200 UTC: Jordan denies Al-Jazeera jamming allegations
Text of report by Jordanian newspaper Al-Dustur website on 30 September
[Unattributed Report: "Jordan Denies Allegation of Jamming the Al-Jazeera's Broadcast of the World Cup"]
Yesterday, a senior government source affirmed that Jordan has no intention to jam the broadcast of any Arab or foreign television station, saying that it is not of its policies nor does it possess the capabilities to do so. Jordan has no intention of wrangling with any media source and it believes in the freedom of media at home and abroad.
The source’s comments came in response to the report of Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel quoting the British daily The Guardian as saying that Jordan has jammed Al-Jazeera’s Sports Channel during its broadcast of the world cup matches.
According to a report by Al-Jazeera last night, The Guardian claimed that Jordan jammed the Al-Jazeera Sports Channel’s broadcast of the world Cup matches from the Al-Salt area using sophisticated equipment.
The source wondered why this issue is being raised three months after the end of the World Cup.
(Source: Al-Dustur website, Amman, in Arabic 30 Sep 10 via BBC Monitoring)