November 29, 2005
Voice of America worships Satan - ENA
Forget Ethiopia vs. Eritrea. The only war worth watching at the moment is the one building up between Ethiopia and Voice of America.
It has everything you would expect in a conflict - growing tension, escalating rhetoric, the real risk of casualties. And unlike other conflicts, anyone who wants to can get right up to the front line. All you have to do is to keep reading the latest reports and comment pieces from the Ethiopian government's own Ethiopian News Agency (ENA), The Ethiopian Herald and Walta Information Centre.
Some of you may be thinking that the headline to this entry is a little over the top. Well, here is one of the latest think pieces from ENA.
VOA and DW Amharic service: Satanic instigations ENA November 19.
The [anti-people and anti-Ethiopia] elements at VOA and DW, instead of standing for journalistic professional competence and professional ethics have chosen the road to disseminating untruth and sowing hatred and mistrust among the people.
In their phone-in programs they have deliberately selected and organized individuals who have rehearsed what bad things to say about the situation in Ethiopia . The overwhelming majority of people arranged to ‘participate' in the programs are carefully selected.
They have succeeded in poisoning the minds of some naïve sections of the population, notably school children in Addis Ababa, former officials, military officers and cadres of the former Workers Party of Ethiopia.
But the overwhelming majority of Ethiopians have demonstrated in deeds that they have nothing to do with such satanic messengers of criminal instigations.
The article as a whole amounts to a 1000-word assault on the Amharic-language radio services broadcast across Ethiopia by Voice of America (VOA) and Germany's Deutsche Welle (DW).
VOA and DW run the only Amharic radio programmes in Ethiopia that are not put out by government-controlled agencies. If you have a short-wave or satellite radio, you can also get, among others, the BBC World Service and Radio France International. But they are, of course, in English and French.
If you are an Amharic speaker who can't afford internet access or satellite TV, you only real alternative to the government channels are VOA and DW. (VOA also runs services in Tigrigna and Afaan Oromoo.) It is not surprising that the Ethiopian Government pays particularly close attention to what they broadcast. At the moment, the government is not very happy with what it is hearing.
In a very quick, unscientific survey of Ethiopian Government news sources, I counted 16 stories and lengthy features from just the past three weeks that contained attacks on VOA and, occasionally, DW.
Here are some more from ENA.
Then there is this feature from Tsahma on Walta Information Center.
There is a clear escalation in the war of words going on in these pieces. On November 14, the Federal Police Commissioner accuses the CUD opposition Coalition of using VOA to spread violence. On November 15, unnamed protesters accuse VOA itself of being biased in its reporting. On November 16, some more anonymous protesters accuse VOA of actually being "bent on inciting conflicts among people". By November 19, VOA is communing with the devil. Where will it end?
In the aftermath of the last outbreak of violence in June, it ended with the Ethiopian Ministry of Information confiscating the press accreditation of all three VOA correspondents. It remains to be seen what will happen to their three replacements.
If this was a piece of real journalism, I would now go on to give you some idea of the actual content of VOA Amharic service. Unfortunately, as I still can't speak Amharic, or Tigrigna, or Afaan Oromoo, I can't. The station's main response so far has been a quote from the chief of the Voice of America's Horn of Africa Service, Timothy Spence who said that VOA was:
...committed to reporting the news and information people need to make decisions in a democratic society. He said VOA's employees adhere to strict standards of neutrality, objectivity and ethics. Mr. Spence said the Horn of Africa Service seeks information from all voices in the Horn of Africa, whether the news is good or bad, and will continue to do so. Mr. Spence also said the service welcomes feedback from its listeners, and respects the right of people to express their views.
If this was a real piece of journalism I would also try to stand up a reminiscence from an Ethiopian friend with a very long memory. He is certain he can remember a TPLF official, way back in 1991 when they were busy winning hearts and minds overthrowing the Dergue, describing the VOA as the only foreign news service worth listening to because of its generally supportive reports. The TPLF, just in case you don't know, went on to form the core of the present government.
Posted by aheavens at November 29, 2005 9:11 AM