Tags: EU | censors | Iran | media

EU Tries to Curb Iran Media Censorship

Monday, 22 March 2010 09:55 PM EDT

BRUSSELS - EU foreign ministers on Monday vowed to "act" against the Iranian state's unacceptable jamming of satellite broadcasts and Internet controls, showing the bloc's increasing impatience with Tehran.

Europe "calls on the Iranian authorities to stop the jamming of satellite broadcasting and Internet censorship and to put an end to this electronic interference immediately," the European Union's 27 foreign ministers said in an agreed statement.

Ministers are "determined to pursue these issues and to act with a view to put an end to this unacceptable situation," they insisted.

The decision to take unilateral European action comes as impatience is growing for stronger United Nation measures against Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme.

Iranian authorities have cracked down on the media and arrested scores of journalists since anti-government protests erupted after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last June.

The Islamic regime has also resorted to communications blackouts, targeting the BBC's Persian-language broadcasts among others.

Nearly 70 foreign radio and television stations that transmit via the Eutelsat satellite to Iran were jammed on February 11, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, they said.

EU sources said that Iranians' text messages were also being intercepted by the authorities in Tehran.

"I think the fact that the Iranian regime are blocking broadcasts... says a lot about the fears they have about their own people hearing the truth about what's going on in their own country," British Foreign Secretary David Milband said as he arrived for the EU ministerial talks in Brussels.

Like many of his counterparts, he saw this as an example of the kind of intransigence which Iran has been showing over its nuclear programme, which the West fears is a bid to become a nuclear weapons power, but Tehran says aims only at energy production.

"Now is the time to show in a united way that we are determined to defend the credibility of the nuclear non-proliferation regime," said Miliband.

Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb summed up the mood: hoping for tougher UN action but getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of it.

"Time is running out with Iran, and time is running out really fast," he stressed as he entered the EU talks.

"We should now work on real sanctions through the (UN) Security Council. Failing that we should move towards unilateral EU sanctions."

Britain, France and Germany asked the EU bloc last week to take measures to curb Iran's ability to censor domestic opposition and to jam foreign satellite broadcasts, although Monday's statement gave no indication how Brussels might proceed towards that aim.

In a joint letter to the bloc's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, the three countries' foreign ministers called for tighter limits on sales of technology that could be used by Iran for repression and censorship.

British peer Ashton on Monday said she was "extremely concerned" about Iran's jamming tactics, without saying what precisely Europe would, or could, do to counter Tehran's tactics.

"First we make the political decision, then we see what the technical people can do," one EU diplomat said.

The idea of blocking official Iranian programming in Europe, as a kind of tit-for-tat measure, found little favour, with Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn saying such a move was unlikely to achieve anything positive.

"We aren't censors," his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner agreed.

The United States has said that the battle for human rights is increasingly being fought on the Internet as China, Iran and other states try to block access by political activists and others.

While the EU has consistently said it will wait for the UN to set further sanctions against Iran, over the nuclear issue, there is increasing impatience in Brussels that veto-wielding Security Council members China and Russia are not going to back such a move any time soon.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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BRUSSELS - EU foreign ministers on Monday vowed to "act" against the Iranian state's unacceptable jamming of satellite broadcasts and Internet controls, showing the bloc's increasing impatience with Tehran.
Monday, 22 March 2010 09:55 PM
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