Al Jazeera Satellite Network has confirmed that its June transmissions of the World Cup in South Africa were deliberated jammed by a party in Jordan, using sophisticated equipment. The disruptions have infuriated millions of viewers across the Middle East.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Al Jazeera said that it had conducted “extensive investigation carried out by multiple teams of independent international technology experts.
“A location based in Jordan was used to deliberately jam the satellite signal causing the live broadcast of the World Cup to be interrupted during numerous matches. This resulted in millions of viewers throughout the Middle East and North Africa to suffer from frequent disruptions of the broadcast.”
Earlier on Thursday, The Guardian reported that it has obtained evidence showing that Jordan is the party behind the jamming, which frustrated thousands of Al Jazeera subscribers last June.
Ian Black, The Guardian’s Middle East affairs editor believes the jamming could not have happened without the knowledge of Jordanian authorities.
“The documents are authentic and undeniable,” Black told Al Jazeera.
The Jordanian government has flatly dismissed the accusation that it jammed the football transmission.
“The Jordanian government categorically denies allegations made by unnamed sources to the Guardian newspaper that it was behind the jamming of Al Jazeera broadcast of the World Cup,” a government official told AFP.
“These allegations are absolutely baseless and unacceptable,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
“The government is ready to cooperate with any team of independent experts to examine the facts, and is certain that any such examination will prove these allegations false.”
The Guardian reported that the jamming, which was traced to Jordan, is believed to have been a retaliation to the collapse of a deal that would have allowed Jordanian football fans free access to the matches.
“Secret documents seen exclusively by the Guardian trace five episodes of jamming definitively to a location near Salt in Jordan, northeast of the capital Amman, confirmed by technical teams using geolocation technology,” the newspaper wrote.
The Jordanian official rejected “speculations” about a deal with Al Jazeera.
“Four days before the kick off of the matches, Al Jazeera made an offer, demanding eight million dollars for the broadcast rights of 20 games of its choosing, and over 50,000 dollars for the broadcast on each screen that would have been placed in underprivileged areas,” he said.
“The government did not accept the offer because it believed it was made too late and the matches offered by Al Jazeera did not justify the cost.”
Sultan Hattab, a Jordanian columnist with close ties to the government rejected the allegations and said The Guardian and its editor “got it wrong.”
“If Jordan enjoys such high technology, it would have jammed the transmission of Al Jazeera’s main channel, which had distorted and stained Jordan’s history,” Hattab said.
Al Jazeera had exclusive pay-TV rights to broadcast World Cup matches across the Middle East from North Africa to Iran.
The jamming has infuriated millions of Al Jazeera’s subscribers, when transmission suddenly turned to blank screens, pixelated images or commentary in the wrong languages during the opening match.
Al-Jazeera has revolutionised the Arabic-language media and reporting on the Middle East since its foundation in 1996, but often at the expense of angering many Arab governments, including that of Jordan.