Jamming of Satellite Broadcast Signals Prevented Ability to See Fatal Sandstorm Coming
The Iran Meteorological Organization has reported to the Iranian Parliament that the reason it was unable to provide sufficient warning to Tehran citizens ahead of a June 12, 2014 sandstorm that claimed five lives and injured 44 Tehran citizens, was the Iranian authorities’ practice of jamming international broadcast signals, according to a July 22 article in Etemad Newspaper. Signal jamming is routinely carried out by Iranian authorities as a means to block all but state-approved broadcasts from reaching Iranian citizens.
In an interview with ISNA, Ahad Vazifeh, Head of the Iran Meteorological Organization’s Early Warning Unit, stressed that his organization had previously warned officials about the dangers presented by the jamming. “We had reported the impact of the jamming signals on our weather forecasts to the pertinent authorities prior to the sandstorm,” he told ISNA.
Following publication of this report, Sakineh Omrani, a member of the Parliament’s Commission on Agriculture, Water, and Natural Resources, confirmed that the jamming signals have caused disruption to the Meteorological equipment. “After reading this report, the Commission concluded that considering the noise [jamming signals] available in the atmosphere and the disruption in its equipment, the Meteorological Organization is not that negligent in the part of this case that had to do with forecasting the storm. However, for the delay in dissemination of information, this organization has been found negligent and must be held accountable,” said Ms. Omrani in a July 22 interview with Etemad Newspaper.
Abbas Rajaee, Head of the Parliament’s Commission on Agriculture, further confirmed the effect of the jamming signals in forecasting the sandstorm. “One of the conclusions of the Commission’s expert reviews was that the extra frequencies in Tehran have produced noises that keep the Meteorological Organization’s radars from acting fully,” he told ISNA.
According to the Etemad report, the Iran Meteorological Organization officials stated that their Tehran radars have been severely limited in capability in recent years as a result of the electromagnetic signals, to the point where images generated by the organization’s radars are frequently obliterated with noise.
Sepehri Rad, Deputy for Radio Communications Regulatory Organization, dismissed the assertion of jamming signal intervention. “If there was a correlation, all banking, military, and security systems would have also faced numerous problems, whereas we have not had any reports about this so far,” he told Etemad.
According to Campaign research, jamming the broadcast signals of international satellites is a long-standing and routine practice by Iranian security and intelligence organizations. Following an international campaign during 2010-2013 against Iran’s satellite jamming, Iran ceased engaging in the direct jamming of satellites. Consequently, the US Administration decided in February 2014 to waive its sanctions on Iran’s state TV agency, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), for a 180-day period.
However, in the new paper, the Campaign has presented data showing that Iran has actually just altered its method of jamming: instead of sending jamming signals directly to the broadcasting satellites (a practice known as “uplink” jamming), Iran has intensified its practice of local jamming (also known as “downlink” or “terrestrial” jamming), whereby the jamming signals are directed at the local receptors of the satellite signals, usually rooftop satellite dishes inside Iran.
The result is the same: the authorities are able to block all content at will. Persian-language news broadcast such as BBC Persian, VOA Persian, and Radio Farda are particularly targeted.
The destructive effects of jamming signals on the public health of Tehran citizens were discussed in Tehran City Council in 2012. Massoumeh Ebtekar, the former Head of Tehran City Council’s Environment Commission, who is currently a Vice President and Head of Environmental Protection Organization, told Aftab News in 2012 that “a tsunami of cancer is on its way.” “As members of the Tehran City Council, we have no information about the jamming signals and who is transmitting them. But what we know is that these signals affect human health and body cells. As an immunologist and researcher, I can say that these signals can be the source of many complications and illnesses,” Ebtekar stated