Michel de Rosen
Chief Executive Officer
Dear Mr. de Rosen,
This correspondence is to follow up the letter we sent you dated March 17, 2010. In that letter, we thanked Eutelsat for responding to our earlier request for information on the Iranian government's jamming of Persian-language satellite feeds, particularly BBC Persian TV and Voice of America. We also requested additional information from Eutelsat, including further clarification regarding specific methods adopted by the company to address the Iranian government's attempts at censorship.
We have not yet received a response to our March 17 letter (a copy of which we attach here).
We would like to reiterate our previous requests for additional information. As you are probably aware, last month Ezatollah Zarghami, the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (Iran's state-run broadcast company), publicly acknowledged that his government engages in jamming of foreign broadcast satellites. Reports indicate that Iran is increasingly relying on jamming of foreign media to stifle freedom of information and expression inside the country.
As we mentioned in our previous letters, we have received information that both BBC and VOA were suspended from the Hot Bird 6 satellite after Iran repeatedly jammed it. We understand that this particular satellite is one of the most popular and easily accessible in Iran. We also understand that Eutelsat has made efforts to deliver BBC and VOA on two alternate satellites, W3A and Hotbird 8, and has lodged several complaints with the ANFR (the French national frequency agency) and the International Telecommunication Union's Radio Regulations Board (ITU-R). Despite these efforts, we understand from sources at the BBC that although the W3A satellite is apparently immune from jamming, it is not easily accessible by Iranian audiences. We also understand that the Hotbird 8 satellite though more popular with Iranian viewers than W3A, is intermittently jammed by Iranian authorities.
We recognize Eutelsat's efforts to address Iranian censorship. However, we are interested in knowing whether dropping BBC and VOA programming from the Hotbird 6 satellite is, in fact, the most effective way to counteract government censorship. Are there other alternatives available to Eutelsat that do not require it to drop programming from its most popular satellite, or shift that programming to other satellites that are equally vulnerable to jamming or are less easily accessible to Iranian viewers? Did Eutelsat explore the possibility of implementing other solutions prior to suspending service on its Hotbird 6 satellite?
Finally, we are interested in knowing whether Eutelsat has any policies or procedures in place to explicitly safeguard freedom of expression when it comes to dealing with governments that systematically engage in censorship. As you are aware, Human Rights Watch has helped develop (and is a board member of) the Global Network Initiative (GNI), an effort started by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, human rights groups, academics, and socially-responsible investors to safeguard free expression and user privacy for the internet and telecommunications industries. Any elaboration on whether Eutelsat has similar policies or procedures in place to protect freedom of information would be most appreciated.
We also acknowledge and appreciate your willingness, per your March 4, 2010 letter, to put us in touch with your interlocutors at the BBC and VOA to get their perspectives on the issues related to Iranian censorship of their broadcasts as well as Eutelsat's approach to this problem.
Thank you in advance for your attention to these points and we look forward to your response.
Sarah Leah Whitson
Middle East & North Africa division
Business & Human Rights