Al-Jazeera TV alleges Jordan was source of World Cup disruptions; kingdom says claim baseless

By Adam Schreck, AP
Friday, October 1, 2010

Jordan disputes Al-Jazeera TV jamming charge

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Pan-Arab satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera says it has evidence that a widespread disruption of its regional feed during the World Cup originated in Jordan — a charge the kingdom disputes.

A Jordanian government official on Friday called Al-Jazeera’s allegations “absolutely baseless and unacceptable,” and said his country is willing to cooperate with an independent investigation of the claims.

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera says that its investigators determined a site in Jordan was used to deliberately jam the satellite signal during the broadcast of World Cup games, garbling some and completely blocking parts of others.

The disruption sparked outrage among football fans across the Middle East, many of whom had to pay extra for special TV packages allowing them to watch the games at home.

Al-Jazeera, which is backed by the energy-rich government of Qatar, is seeking an explanation from the Jordanian government.

The Jordanian official said the kingdom is willing to cooperate with any independent team of experts to examine the claims. But he dismissed the merit of the broadcaster’s charges.

“Any examination will prove these allegations are false,” said the official. Another official said Jordan didn’t possess the technical capabilities to jam the broadcast.

Both spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Al-Jazeera, which had exclusive rights to broadcast the tournament across the Mideast and North Africa, said it relied on “multiple teams of independent international technology experts” to identify the source of the disruption.

It didn’t name the technology specialists involved, but said the investigation was carried out with help from Arab satellite providers.

Molly Conroy, a New York-based spokeswoman for the broadcaster, declined to comment further.

Football’s governing body FIFA threw its support behind the broadcaster shortly after technical problems plagued transmission of the opening match between host South Africa and Mexico, saying it was working with Al-Jazeera to find the source of the problem.

“FIFA condemns any interference of authorized transmissions of its competitions and hopes the relevant stakeholders will solve the issue,” FIFA TV director Niclas Ericson said in an emailed response to questions about Al-Jazeera’s allegations Friday.

Al-Jazeera’s operations have expanded beyond its original Arabic-language news channel, which has drawn criticism from the U.S. for its willingness to air tapes of Osama bin Laden and from Arab governments unhappy with how their countries and leaders are portrayed.

Besides the Arabic network, Al-Jazeera runs an English-language news network as well as documentary and sports channels.

Associated Press Writer Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

October 1, 2010: 11:47 am

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