Reporters Without Borders filed a complaint with the public prosecutor in Paris on 6 November accusing persons unknown of acts of piracy against Radio Erena, an Eritrean exile radio station based in Paris which broadcasts by satellite to the Horn of Africa and which is backed by Reporters Without Borders.
A pirate transmission jammed the station’s signal on 14 August. Arabsat, the satellite operator that carried Radio Erena on its BADR-6 satellite, reacted by suspending the station because the jamming was disrupting other signals. It restored Radio Erena on 2 September only to suspend it again two days later, this time indefinitely, because the jamming had resumed.
The station’s website was meanwhile the target of a cyber-attack on 28 August.
“Radio Erena’s programmes can no longer be heard by Eritreans living in Eritrea because its satellite broadcasting has been paralysed for more than three months,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“A judicial investigation has to be launched in France with the aim of establishing the precise origin of these acts of sabotage and prosecuting all those responsible, both the perpetrators and the instigators. We have done this because we want to shed light on all the circumstances surrounding this piracy, including where the jamming is coming from and who ordered it.
“Geolocation indicates that the pirate transmission jamming the signal originates from within Eritrea. The government must be doing this in order to gag an independent broadcaster it clearly finds very irritating. This should come as no surprise from the rulers of a country ranked last in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index for the past five years.
“But President Issaias Afeworki’s government will not get away with it. The complaint that we have filed points out that this piracy is completely illegal. Neither Radio Erena nor Reporters Without Borders have said their final word.”
The Radio Erena staff and its supporters have been able to repair the damage to the website while mirror sites have been created. But satellite broadcasting has not resumed so the station is not being received in Eritrea or anywhere else in the Horn of Africa.
For the time being Radio Erena is only broadcasting on the Internet, but only the Eritrean diaspora can access the web broadcasts because the Internet is not sufficiently developed in Eritrea.
As a Paris-based radio station, Radio Erena operates under a convention ratified by France’s Higher Council for Broadcasting (CSA). The complaint alleged “disruption of over-the-air broadcasting by an authorized service” and “disruption of an automated data processing system” under article L. 39-1 of the Post and Electronic Communications Code and articles 323-2 and 323-5 of the Criminal Code.
Radio Erena in the French and international press:
- “Radio Erena, fighting for the airwaves” (Libération)
- “Radio Erena, the free voice that Eritrea wants to gag” (Le Monde)
- “Radio Erena is the only independent radio station broadcasting in Eritrea, so it’s no surprise they don’t like it” (Interview with Biniam Simon by RFI’s Sonia Rolley)