Iran Interrupts Christian Satellite Channel

As the Iranian government cracks down on communication modes following its disputed presidential election, Christian satellite channels have been among its victims.

Terry Ascott, CEO of SAT-7 International, said many satellite channels, including the Christian channel, have been affected by the government crackdown. What is "strange," he noted, is that the government has found a way to block channels beaming into Iran without jamming satellites that would affect the entire Middle East.

"Somehow they have developed a new technology to simply and simultaneously block access to multiple channels in the major cities – which is the first time we have seen such a thing," Ascott told The Christian Post on Friday.

Since the presidential elections on June 12, Iran's government has restricted cell phone and satellite signals in an effort to stop its citizens from organizing demonstrations against hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian government and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have declared Ahmadinejad the valid re-elected president of Iran. But a mass number of citizens have refused to believe the election results are valid, arguing that pro-reform opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi is the true elected leader of the country.

Following the announcement of Ahmadinejad's victory, massive demonstrations have taken place on the streets of Tehran and elsewhere in the country. Even this week, nearly a month after the election, Iranian citizens continue to organize street protests against Ahmadinejad.

Last month's demonstrations have numbered tens of thousands, but more recent protests are estimated to number in the thousands. Media agencies have said it is hard to know exactly how many protesters there are because Iranian authorities have banned reporters from leaving their offices to cover the demonstrations.

Other than blocking satellite TV, the Iranian government has also closed down access to much of the Internet and the use of text messaging, Ascott said.

But the SAT-7 founder noted that satellite TV is not jammed 24/7 and sometimes Iranians are able to catch programs.

"People caught up in this kind of change are, perhaps, more open than ever to the Gospel of Christ," he said to Mission Network News.

But at the present time there is nothing anyone can do to overcome the satellite problem, the founder of the Christian satellite channel for the Middle East admitted.

SAT-7 was founded in 1995 and aired its first broadcast in May 1996. The satellite TV ministry has been working to present a more accurate image of Christianity in the Arab world, where people often associate Christians with negative images from the Western world. Each week, between nine and ten million people tune into the network, whose programs are broadcast in three languages – Arabic, Farsi and Turkish.