The Chinese are now jamming VOA English broadcasts, having similarly targeted the BBC and Indian broadcasts in recent days. The origin of the interference appears to be in Tibet…
Voice of America is reporting that its English shortwave broadcasts are now being jammed on all shortwave frequencies, citing the source of the interference as coming from Tibet.
While VOA and Radio Free Asia shortwave broadcasts to China in Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, and Uyghur are heavily jammed by the Chinese, broadcasts in English have generally been tolerated, if not welcomed — as in the case of VOA’s English learning programming.
“The Chinese government has for years jammed VOA and Radio Free Asia Chinese and Tibetan language programs and blocked VOA vernacular language websites,” said VOA Director David Ensor, “but English language programs have historically not been blocked.”
“We condemn this interference and are working with worldwide experts to determine the precise origin of the jamming,” Ensor says. “The free flow of information is a universal right and VOA will continue to provide accurate and balanced information on platforms that can reach audiences in areas subject to censorship.”
The BBC and All India Radio have reported suffering from similar jamming in recent days, suggesting an escalation in China’s efforts to cut off outside news and information sources.
In a statement, The BBC condemned “this action which is designed to disrupt audiences’ free access to news and information.” While failing to note the exact source, the statement furthered that the jamming was deliberate, and the “extensive and co-ordinated efforts are indicative of a well-resourced country such as China”.
While English is known to be a preferred second language for China’s higher educated, the number of speakers is difficult to ascertain. Numbers of 250-300 million English learners are often published, but the number of Chinese who are proficient in English is undoubtedly much smaller. Still, reaching Chinese via English has been viewed by international broadcasters as something as a “foot in the door” of an otherwise closed media environment.