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RWB-backed satellite radio station sabotaged again

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Alert / Press Release

6 September 2012

ERITREA

RWB-backed satellite radio station sabotaged again

Radio Erena, a Paris-based satellite radio station that broadcasts to Eritreans in Eritrea and to the Eritrean diaspora, is again the target of a pirate transmission from within Eritrea that is blocking its broadcasts – this time since 4 September.

The sabotage resumed two days after the radio and TV satellite company Arabsat restored Radio Erena’s signal, ending three weeks of satellite silence that had been the result of an earlier pirate transmission from inside Eritrea.

Radio Erena was launched by Reporters Without Borders in 2009 with the primary chief aim of providing an independent news service to the residents of what is one of the most closed countries in the world, one that is ranked even lower than North Korea in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

The method of sabotage is similar to the one that forced Radio Erena off the air from 14 August to 2 September. Arabsat, owner of the BADR-6 satellite that the station uses to reach Eritrea, said it had to suspend Radio Erena because its signal was being jammed by a pirate transmission.

Using geolocation, Arabsat has established that the jamming, which is targeted directly at the Radio Erena signal, has come both times from inside Eritrea. The first time, the jamming began after the station broadcast an interview with an Ethiopian government minister.

"This Reporters Without Borders-backed radio station is really essential for Eritreans because the country’s state media just carry the regime’s bellicose and ultranationalist discourse," RWB director-general Christophe Deloire said.

"Radio Erena is the only source of independent news and information in the local language in what is an information black hole. We are not surprised by these attacks from a country that is ranked last in our press freedom index, but we reserve the right to take legal measures."

Reporters Without Borders created a mirror of the station’s website so that another cyber-attack would not prevent Eritreans from accessing Radio Erena’s news reports online. The organization urges Internet users to visit this exact copy of the original and to create more copies of it, in order to thwart the government’s censorship.

The Reporters Without Borders mirror site was itself the target of cyber-attacks last night but the hackers failed to gain control of it.

Ranked last in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index for the past five years, Eritrea is Africa’s biggest jail for journalists and the fourth biggest wordwide, after China, Iran and Syria. In reality, it is one vast open prison for the media.


Version française

La radio de RSF à destinsation de l’Eryhtrée à nouveau piratée

Victime d’attaques à répétition lancées depuis l’Erythrée, Radio Erena a été à nouveau l’objet d’un sabotage technologique, le 4 septembre 2012. Alors que son signal avait été rétabli deux jours plus tôt après trois semaines de suspension sur le satellite Arabsat, cette chaîne de radio indépendante lancée par RSF en 2009 a été une fois de plus la cible d’une porteuse pirate, qui empêche sa diffusion.

Radio Erena s’adresse aux Erythréens de l’intérieur et de la diaspora, qui vivent dans l’un des pays les plus fermés du monde, classé derrière la Corée du Nord dans le classement mondial de la liberté de la presse. Le modus operandi pour la faire taire est similaire à celui qui a entraîné la dernière coupure, du 14 août au 2 septembre derniers. La société Arabsat, propriétaire du satellite BADR-6 par lequel Radio Erena diffuse ses programmes, a indiqué avoir suspendu la station en raison de l’existence d’une porteuse pirate venant brouiller son signal. Comme une enquête de géolocalisation menée par Arabsat l’indique, les attaques proviennent de l’Erythrée. La porteuse pirate vise directement Radio Erena. La première série d’attaques était intervenue à la suite de la diffusion d’une interview d’un ministre éthiopien.

“La voix de la radio Erena lancée par RSF est d’autant plus essentielle que les médias publics du pays ne font que relayer le discours belliqueux et ultranationaliste du régime. Dans ce trou noir de l’information, il n’existe aucune autre source d’information indépendante en langue locale pour les Erythréens. Que des attaques soient lancées du pays qui occupe la dernière place du classement mondial de la liberté de la presse, ne nous étonne pas, mais nous nous réservons le droit d’engager une procédure”, a commenté Christophe Deloire, directeur général de Reporters sans frontières.

Pour éviter qu’une nouvelle cyberattaque prive les Erythréens des informations du site Web de Radio Erena, Reporters sans frontières a créé un site miroir. L’organisation invite les internautes à le visiter pour accéder à la copie exacte du site, et la dupliquer, pour rendre ainsi la censure caduque. Cette opération peut être relayée sur Twitter à l’aide du hashtag #RSFmirror. Dans la nuit de mercredi à jeudi, le site miroir monté par Reporters sans frontières a dores et déjà été la cible de cyber attaques mais les attaquants n’ont pas réussi à prendre le contrôle du site.

En dernière position, depuis cinq ans, du classement mondial de la liberté de la presse, établie par Reporters sans frontières, l’Erythrée est "une prison à ciel ouvert", la plus grande d’Afrique pour les professionnels de l’information et la quatrième à l’échelle mondiale, après la Chine, l’Iran et la Syrie.

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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