OSLO, Norway: The exile radio network Voice of Tibet on Wednesday accused Beijing of stepping up jamming of its shortwave news broadcasts into the Himalayan province during a crackdown on anti-Chinese demonstrations in Tibet and ahead of the 2008 Olympics in China.
"There has been enormous focus on journalists not getting free access to Tibet. The other side of the coin is that information from the outside is not getting into Tibet," said Oystein Alme, a Norwegian who runs the nonprofit foundation's business office in Oslo.
Most of the Voice of Tibet's 13 staff work at its main editorial office in Dharamsala, India, with Alme handling administration and funding in Oslo. The network started broadcasting in 1996, and has daily evening newscasts about Tibet in the Tibetan language and Mandarin Chinese.
"They started jamming us nearly 13 years ago," Alme told The Associated Press. "Now they have been stepping it up in connection with the demonstrations."
Tibetans have been protesting and rioting in the longest challenge to China's rule in the Himalayan region since 1989. The crackdown by Chinese authorities has focused international attention on the country's human-rights record in the run-up to the Beijing Games in August.
The protests started out peacefully among monks on March 10 — the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule — but they turned violent four days later. The province has been all but closed to independent news media. Chinese officials say 22 people have died in the protests, while Tibetan exiles say nearly 140 people were killed.
Alme said the Chinese use ground stations in Tibet to transmit two or more additional signals on the frequency used by the Voice of Tibet to make the broadcasts incomprehensible.
"The Chinese jamming transmissions contain a mixture of dragon dance music, drums and noise, and affects listening also in India, Nepal and Europe," said Alme. The Chinese are "denying Tibetans access to uncensored news and information from the outside world."
Alme said Chinese jamming violated international treaties giving the network exclusive rights to its registered frequency.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing had no immediate comment on the allegation.
China's Communist government maintains strict controls over the media. Domestic news outlets are entirely state-run and Beijing limits access to foreign news broadcasts and Web sites.
International organizations, including Reporters Without Borders and the World Association of Newspapers, also have protested China's crackdown on information to and from Tibet, particularly considering its promised of press freedoms when it was awarded the 2008 Olympics.
"The Chinese government is trampling on the promises it made linked to the Olympics and preparing the ground to crack down on the Tibetan revolt in the absence of witnesses," said a recent statement from Reporters Without Borders, which also protested Chinese jamming of the Voice of Tibet, the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.
During pro-democracy protests in Myanmar late last year, the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma was a crucial source of information about what was happening in that country after the military dictatorship cut off most information during a brutal crackdown. The independent Burma radio managed to smuggle out pictures and information through the Internet and by mobile phones.
"It is very different for us," said Alme about Tibet. "We don't have any information. The grip on the Tibet is much stronger."
Alme refused to say where Voice of Tibet transmitters are based or who funds it, fearing Chinese efforts to force them to withdraw support.
On the Net: Voice of Tibet: http://www.vot.org
Example of Jamming: Example of Jamming: http://www.diantai.org/jamming.html