Shockwave over Iran

Over the years, overseas-based Persian language satellite tv broadcasters have won over the hearts of a number of Iranians. And to make matters worse, just when authorities thought they found a solution -- jamming signals by airing microwave noise frequencies, also known as 'parasites' -- questions are now being raised about the health effects of such hi-tech methods

 
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- (Credit: EMKAY)Ayatollah or boy bands? It is hard to keep out foreign influences, as Iranian authorities are discovering. Over the years, overseas-based Persian language satellite tv broadcasters have won over the hearts of a number of Iranians. And to make matters worse, just when authorities thought they found a solution -- jamming signals by airing microwave noise frequencies, also known as 'parasites' -- questions are now being raised about the health effects of such hi-tech methods.

There are about 10 Persian-language channels beaming in "decadent" music and programmes critical of the ruling clerics, from abroad. Iranian authorities have set up jamming facilities all over Tehran, the Iranian capital, to counter what they call this "cultural invasion." Jammers are airing high frequencies similar to those of the overseas channels from the ground in order to make the programmes disappear from the tv screens of those Iranians rich enough to own a satellite dish.

But such methods are questionable. Pumping ground to air signals in a congested urban area of roughly 12 million people has great health risks.

According to the World Health Organization (who), these high frequencies could "induce heating in body tissues which may provoke various physiological and thermoregulatory responses, including a decreased ability to perform mental or physical tasks as body temperature increases." These frequencies may also affect the development of a foetus leading to birth defects, impair male fertility and lead to the induction of eye opacities.

And now it seems that these signals are also affecting state television channels, the telephone network and Internet services. Deputies in Iran's parliament have even asked President Mohammad Khatami to look into the matter and speak with the Supreme Council of National Security. "The president should ask these noise stations to coordinate with other related institutions, such as the health and telecommunications ministries, in order to prevent them causing problems for our citizens," member of Parliament Mohammed-Reza Ali Hosseini demanded. Meanwhile, the ministry of post, telegraph and telephone -- which is supposed to be in charge of this counter-beaming -- has declared that they have not authorized any jamming facilities.

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