Meles Zenawi believes it is permissible for Ethiopia to jam VOA broadcasts into his country because the U.S. legally bars the dissemination of VOA programming within the United States itself. (See this on Smith-Mundt Act.)
There’s just one problem with that attempted justification. As VOA Director Danforth Austin tells the NewsBlog: “The U.S. government doesn't jam foreign broadcasts heard and seen by U.S. citizens. The Ethiopian government does jam foreign broadcasts heard and seen by Ethiopian citizens. I think the question has to be: What is it about these international broadcasters that Meles Zenawi and his government fear?”
This isn’t the first time the Ethiopia Prime Minister has said something outrageous involving VOA. Back in March he uttered one of the most outrageous statements of all time when he compared VOA broadcasts to Ethiopia to the broadcasts of Radio Milles Collines, the infamous “hate radio” blamed for inciting the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
Meles’ justification for the Ethiopian jamming of VOA broadcasts back then drew a sharp response from U.S. officials. A State Department spokesman said the Ethiopian leader was entitled to disagree with the news carried by VOA but jamming VOA signals was in conflict with Ethiopia’s constitution. It says Ethiopians have the right to freedom of expression “without any interference” and that this right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, “regardless of frontiers.”