A protest in Iran has raised concerns about broadcast jamming equipment and its effect on human health.
The protest took place on January 9 in the southern city of Shiraz. Demonstrators gathered outside the offices of the governor of Fars province.
One demonstrator sent a video of the protest to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). The station reports to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which also supervises Voice of America.
RFE/RL says the protesters blamed the government’s jamming operations for health problems among local residents. People accused the equipment of causing problems such as a sharp pain in the head and even cancer.
Iran’s government has long interfered with Persian language broadcasts by Western media to try to stop Iranians from watching or listening to them.
Some jamming equipment uses electromagnetic waves that critics say are responsible for the health problems.
Former Iranian lawmaker Ali Akbar Mousavi investigated the issue of jamming. Mousavi now lives in the United States. He told VOA the Shiraz protesters were concerned about a comment reportedly made by Iran’s deputy health minister, Reza Malekzadeh. The official spoke about a link between jamming equipment and public health.
Malekzadeh reportedly said “preliminary studies” found that electromagnetic jamming signals can increase the risk of cancer. Iran’s state-operated news agency, IRNA, reported the comment in a story published in December of 2016. It said he was speaking during a visit to a cancer research event in Shiraz. He provided no further details on the studies that he noted.
Iran’s Financial Tribune newspaper noted that Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi later questioned the importance of his deputy’s comments. Hashemi reportedly said his ministry still lacked “strong scientific evidence to prove that jamming can enhance the risk of cancer or exacerbate health problems.”
The United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) says scientific research does not confirm any health effects from exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields. It also said, “Some gaps in knowledge about biological effects exist, and need further research.”
Ali Akbar Mousavi served as vice-chair of the Iranian parliament’s information and communications technology committee. In an email to VOA, he said he had seen “many” reports of Iranian lawmakers and civil society members speaking out in recent years against the government’s jamming activities.
“My colleagues and I raised the same concerns (about jamming) as members of the 6th Iranian parliament and succeeded in stopping it through public pressure,” he said. “Unfortunately, the government started jamming again when (former President) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power (in 2005).”
Jamming is barred under rules of the International Telecommunications Union, of which Iran is a member.
Mousavi said he expects criticism of jamming to continue until the Iranian government stops what he called an “illegal” practice.
I’m Kaveh Razaei.
Words in This Story
jamming – n. the act of interfering with broadcast signals on purpose
resident – n. someone who lives in a place or area
preliminary – adj. coming before; beginning or partial
exacerbate – v. to make more violent or severe
exposure – n. the condition of being unprotected; the condition of being subject to an effect or influence
gap – n. a separation in space; a break in a barrier
colleague – n. a co-worker; someone who works with you
practice – n. an activity