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Sat, 20 Mar 2010 10:31 - Updated Sat, 20 Mar 2010 10:31

US condemns Ethiopia for VOA jamming

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   Washington – The United States condemned  Ethiopia's blocking of Voice of America broadcasts, calling the country's accusations of the US radio  service "baseless and inflammatory."

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi earlier admitted  to jamming the US government-funded VOA broadcasts in  Amharic, saying he was prepared to censor the broadcasts because of the service's "destabilizing propaganda."

He said Ethiopian authorities had been testing jamming  equipment although there had been no formal decision to  block the US radio station.

But Washington said Addis Ababa was already jamming VOA  transmissions in Amharic, Ethiopia's main language. The  United States "opposes" the move, US State Department  spokesman Gordon Duguid said in a statement.

The Ethiopian leader also compared VOA to Radio Mille  Collines of Rwanda, which incited the population to exterminate minority Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide.

Duguid condemned the comparison to the infamous Rwandan  station.

"Comparing a respected and professional news service to a group that called for genocide in Rwanda is a baseless and inflammatory accusation that seeks only to deflect  attention away from the core issue," he said on Friday.

"The prime minister may disagree with news carried in  Voice of America's Amharic service broadcasts; however, a decision to jam VOA broadcasts contradicts the  government of Ethiopia's frequent public commitments to  freedom of the press."

He noted that the Ethiopian Constitutions upholds  people's right to freedom of expression "without any  interference" and that freedom of the press includes  "prohibition of any form of censorship."