* Deutsche Welle says blocked since April 6
* Govt denies blocking signal of “marginal player”
By Barry Malone, (Reuters) – Ethiopia denied on Sunday it was jamming Deutsche Welle’s (DW) local Amharic language radio shows, after the state-funded German broadcaster appealed for its signal to be restored.
Deutsche Welle issued a statement at the weekend saying its broadcasts in Amharic, the predominant language in Ethiopia, had been blocked since April 6.
“This has lead DW officials to believe that it is a concentrated effort to block critical international media,” the statement said.
“The Ethiopian administration is apparently concerned that the so-called Jasmine Revolution in North Africa will spread into their country.”
Government spokesman Bereket Simon told Reuters there was no jamming of services to the Horn of Africa nation.
“Deutsche Welle is heard by only 1 percent of Ethiopians. An independent study (by Electoral Reform International Services) confirmed it,” Bereket told Reuters.
“We know Deutsche Welle is not ethical but I can assure you, with only 1 to 1.5 percent listenership, why should the Ethiopian government care to jam it?”
In March last year, two months before a disputed election result returned him to power, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi ordered the jamming of U.S.-funded broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) and sparked a diplomatic row.
Ethiopia has frequently clashed with DW and VOA and regularly accuses both of broadcasting propaganda that could destabilise the country.
DW said its reports on the recent arrests of more than 100 ethnic Oromos could have motivated the jamming. Ethiopia’s government on Thursday said it was preparing to charge more than 100 people it says are members of the outlawed rebel group the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). [ID:nLDE7361B1]
International press freedom advocacy groups say the Ethiopian government intimidates and harasses critical journalists, a charge the government denies.
Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countries and most of its population has no access to satellite dishes or the Internet. VOA and Germany’s Deutsche Welle are the only foreign broadcasters producing Amharic radio programmes. (Editing by Jon Boyle)