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February 28, 2013 - Updated on January 20, 2016

BBC English-language radio broadcasts jammed in China


Reporters Without Borders condemns the jamming of the BBC World Service’s English-language shortwave radio broadcasts in China. The BBC issued a statement on February 25th deploring this violation of freedom of information and suggesting that the Chinese government was to blame.

“We support the BBC and we urge it to file a legal complaint against persons unknown,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We recently brought this kind of legal action before the French public prosecutor’s office in connection with acts of piracy targeting Radio Erena, a Paris-based Eritrean exile radio station that broadcasts by satellite to the Horn of Africa.

“We are convinced that this kind of legal initiative can help to shed light on the exact circumstances of such acts of piracy, that is to say, the place where the jamming originates and the identity of those responsible.

“We also urge the British authorities to complain to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is a UN body. If it turns out that the Chinese authorities ordered the jamming, they must be called to account. It is illegal, it violates fundamental freedoms and it is detrimental to all those in China who speak English.”

Feb 25th’s BBC statement said: “The BBC has received reports that World Service English shortwave frequencies are being jammed in China. Though it is not possible at this stage to attribute the source of the jamming definitively, the extensive and coordinated efforts are indicative of a well-resourced country such as China.”

BBC told Reporters Without Borders "Intermittent jamming was first identified in late 2012 but has intensified in February. On Feb 13th over 24 hour period, a monitoring exercise checked 134 frequencies and found that 75% of them were jammed. This situation is on-going and also appears to be affecting reception of BBC World Service English on shortwave outside China in South and South East Asia."

In 2008, the BBC’s Mandarin-language broadcasts have already experienced intermittent blocking but its English-language broadcasts have suffered little jamming in the past, in part because they use the shortwave, which is much less likely to be censored than satellite broadcasts.

Access to the BBC news website is meanwhile often blocked in China.

Ranked 173rd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, the People’s Republic of China has recently been accused of censoring and spying on several leading western news media.