New York, March 19, 2010—Ethiopia is preparing to jam the Amharic-language broadcasts of the U.S. government-funded Voice of America (VOA), Prime Minister Meles Zenawi declared Thursday in a press briefing with international media correspondents based in the capital, Addis Ababa.
The prime minister accused VOA’s Amharic service of “engaging in destabilizing propaganda,” comparing it to Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, the Rwandan station whose inflammatory broadcasts helped stoke the 1994 genocide. In a statement, VOA rejected the comparison as “incorrect and unfortunate.”
The issue arose Thursday when a reporter asked Zenawi about interference that VOA listeners had experienced since late February. Zenawi said the government has been testing equipment that would allow it to block VOA broadcasts, according to news reports. He said a final decision on the jamming had not been made.
“We have to know before we make the decision to jam whether we have the capacity to do it,” Zenawi told reporters, according to news accounts. But he left little doubt he would authorize jamming once the government had the capability, saying “I can assure you” the plan will go forward once it is feasible.
Zenawi’s statements were
the first acknowledgment of government interference with VOA broadcasts, which
are beamed by satellite from