Voice of America: Do Not Censor the Voiceless!

Alemayehu G. Mariam

The record will show that I have been an unapologetic defender of the Voice of America. A couple of weeks ago, I defended the VOA as the Voice of the Voiceless. When Zenawi lambasted the VOA for being the flipside of the VOI (Voice of Interhamwe-Rwanda), I rose to its defense. When Zenawi jammed the broadcasts of the VOA to Ethiopia in 2010, I defended the right of the VOA to broadcast to Ethiopians and the right of Ethiopians to receive VOA broadcasts. I am the #1 fan of the VOA.

Now there are disturbing revelations that dictator Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia has been trying to secretly arm-twist and remote-control the VOA  into  blacklisting his critics in the U.S. and elsewhere and  denying them access to the VOA. A 41-page document posted online shows a not-so-subtle attempt by Zenawi to identify and muzzle critics who gave interviews on the VOA. The document purports to be a complaint about the bias of certain VOA reporters, but the subliminal message is clear. If the VOA continues to give airtime to certain viewpoints and individuals, Zenawi’s regime will continue to jam VOA broadcasts. The implicit deal (quid pro quo) offered is that the electronic jamming  will stop if Zenawi’s critics are banished from VOA microphones permanently.

Zenawi may try to conceal his blacklist as a complaint of bias. But we understand his message to the VOA loud and clear. But we should also send our own crystal clear message to the VOA:

I. We will hold the VOA accountable to its own journalistic standards (“Audiences ‘ Bill of Journalism Rights” ) as set forth in the Voice of America’s Journalist Standards & Practices (document 11-023 and 11-024). We remind the VOA to meet its solemn obligations to its audience and respect their

right to expect that(VOA)  journalists will monitor power and give voice to the voiceless. The press should use its watchdog power to uncover things that are important and new and that change community thinking… The press should monitor all the key centers of power in the community-including but not limited to government.

II. We expect a thorough, complete and fair investigation of the allegations in the 41-page “complaint” and release of the findings within a reasonable time. We expect to review and comment on the outcome of the investigation and the specific findings.

III. We shall remain vigilant for any evidence of viewpoint censorship, editorial policy changes to exclude issues and individuals deemed critical of the ruling regime or leaders of the regime in Ethiopia, patterns and practices calculated to limit, prevent or otherwise systematically exclude pro-democracy voices from VOA broadcasts.

IV. We shall remain prepared to defend our constitutional rights of free expression against a foreign government acting on its own or jointly and severally with any other private or governmental entity.

V. Just as the VOA has a duty to become a voice for the voiceless, on July 24, 2011, the VOA has a duty to listen intently to the voices of the voiceless who will appear to register their concerns.

The vast majority of Ethiopians in the U.S. are fully supportive of the VOA and its mission. We have great respect and admiration for the professionalism and integrity of VOA journalists, reporters, editors and management. Above all, we fully support the VOA for being a beacon of not only information and knowledge for the people of Ethiopia, but also a voice of democracy, human rights, moderation and reconciliation.




5 thoughts on “Voice of America: Do Not Censor the Voiceless!

  1. practiche on

    VOA is acquiescing to Meles’s demand as a trade off for TPLF’s service in Abeyi, Sudan. There are more important concerns in these things than Democracy or Human rights.

  2. Eritreawi on

    Mr. Alemayehu;

    You have to know that VOA is the media tool of the US government, their main mission is to advance US interests and US interests in Ethiopia are best served by the tribal junta led by Melles Zenawi, so when push comes to shove they have no choice but to take the side of their servant. Please Mr. Alemayehu think with your head and not your heart.

    I occassionally listen to VOA Tigrigna service and can easily detect their broadcasts are VERY BIASED towards Woyanne, they act as if they are independent and unbiased but the way they present their programs is designed to make the Woyanne regime look legitimate and even democratic government. When they interview any Eritrean government officials it is only because they want them to answer their biased questions, fortunately the Eritrean officials know this and give as much of not more than they recieve from the so called journalists. One day Eritrea’s information Minister Mr. Ali Abdu told his interviewer that he is aware the pressure they are under from their management to spew false propaganda against Eritrea and told them not to pretend to be “fair and balanced”.

    My advice to you and other concerned Ethiopians is that there is no such thing as free media, people don’t spend money on VOA for ulturistic reasons. The best way to counter VOA propaganda is by establishing a media outlet for Ethiopians who oppose Woyanne and calling VOA when they get caught lying and advancing Woyanne interests.

  3. Tadias on

    My trip to ETHIOPIA

    By Misraq » Sun Jul 17, 2011 12:10 am

    My reason for a the trip was for my cousin wedding. but, i took the opportunity to assess on my future aim of relocating back home by conversing with fellow relatives who are there and successful in business. as you all know, i am Tigrayan but happen to live in the west for a while. my political support for meles priviously based on kinship than quality of leadership. my trip to Ethiopia had changed my perspective completely and i will reaterate it below the best i could.

    First of all, i would like to apologize to minilik. I used to call him Budaw. I hope Minilik won’t take my past biased attitude towards him. But now i have learnt a big deal thanks to my trip that showed me the true picture on why Many Ethiopians have reservation on the current administration and the party it holds. My trip thought me to tolerate those who oppose Meles and his leadership. I was sickened to realize that what i was told about how marvelous Meles is including the brothers who are ruling the nation are not really what i assumed and expected. I have realized that Meles + the Sheik + greedy Tigrayans are pushing the nation to the edge of eminent danger. I have seen millions of destitute people. The double digit the regime talks about is now where to be seen. unemployment is very high. prostitution also become rampant. There is a total news blackout about the starvation. most people in major towns haven’t heard it. There is no effort to contain the famine from the government side.

    I was also surprised that my father offered to connect me with top TPLF leadership members who are the sole kings of that land incase i chose to relocate back home and think about doing business. Most of my extended cousines are millionairs already. I do not know how they get it but surely, they are wealthy since i was invited to those family members through out my stay over there. But people who i grew up walk with two( Oromo and One Amhara) a near useless shoe and torn t-shirts. they struggle to put the food on the table for their families. I was sickened to realize that the weyanne revolution didn’t bring social and economic justice. rather, it brought inequalities since i myself was offered many business if i can afford it. …. for the first time, i was ashamed to call myself as a tigrayan. .

    …. Napoleon once said about China like this..”When China wakes up, the whole world will be shaken.” He was true when he predicted that china will sit on the front seat of world powers some day. it was an excellent and accurate prediction of the sleeping gaint CHINA. I raised this to warn members of the current ruling system that the rest of Ethiopia sleeping as it may seem to be now, will wake up. Just like the Chinease found it very hard to reconcile with Japanease till this day, the ruling class in ethiopia is making it irreconcilable for any future relationship between Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia. I went down on the streets of addis in cafes and chatted with any one about politics. most wouldn’t open the first time, but a few minutes and hours after they get to know you, they tell their non-stop grievances.. The system effectively sidelined the majority endangering their livelyhood and survival. One individual told me that his sister left to Metemma, Gondar in transit to Juba (South Sudan) in search of maid job. He told me that they have few aging family who need to eat 3 times a day and need urgent medical care. The girl sacrificed herself by paying 15,000 ethiopian birr just to get to Metemma and then to the Sudan. It shows how the girl sacrificed her womanhood to save the life of her immidiate aging family and her diabetic brother whom i was talking to.

    The man also explained to me that i should go to the immigration office next to Tikur Anbessa hospital to witness myself on the amount of female citezens trying to make similar risky journeys. i went to the place the other day just to witness myself and i have seen lines of more than 1000 girls waiting for the door to open so that they can get the necessary document to leave the country. almost all of the girls have covered their face similar to the muslim tradition but a good majority of them are not muslims. women with the name of Lidya change their name to something like kedija etc. It was shamefull for me to see fellow country women whom i went to school at early child hood forced to leave their respected way of life and opt to this dangerous way of life. I didn’t blame them. similar to the girl who left to metemma to rescue her family, all this thousands lining in the immigration office have their own very reason to risk themselves. it was visible for me to see that the leadership i used to admire here is nowhere near to understand, manage and safegaurd a nation as large as Ethiopia. In short, the group that is leading the nation is not capable of leading and managing one small Awraga. One thing the Meles leadership good at it is invoking nationalism amongst unsuspecting and often ridiculously stuupid people. I was in that category once. but thanks to my own eyes, i have made a good use of my judgment to decide and share my experience with you.

    One of the most disturbing thing that i saw is on my travel outside Addis Ababa on route through small towns and villages. most people still walk barefooted. women carrying woods on their back walking miles after miles on scorching sun is visible. It was this people the Meles regime call Neftegna/Timkehtegna or oromo Ashebari/Terrorists. The ETV has virtually no audiences except the entertainment part. it is full of propoganda about small industries while it was visible that there is no employment opportunities at all. the harsh living condition also encouraged greedy merchants to punish the population in a very cruel way. For instance it is common that “Berbere” merchents to sell it mixing with clay or red soil. It is also the same for Butter sellers sell it mixing it with other substances like banana in which you would have no way of knowing it. it is very hard to scribe the social catestroph that is happening right now. the contempt within the population will explode one day and the display will be very ugly. The current ignorant leadership has no way of telling the future like Napoleon and it would be too late by then. ……………………to be continued

  4. Gebre on

    Dear Alemayehu G. Mariam,

    You and your colleagues (at Ethiopian Review) are the most offenders when it comes to censorship. You all (at Ethiopian Review) always delete people’s comments and opinions. You are so hypocrite to criticise Voice of America on this matter.

    Your article “Voice of America: Do Not Censor the Voiceless!” has no bearing in truth at all. You always preach freedom of information/speech and condemn others but you do not look in own practice. Before you criticise others, you must correct to your bad censorship against people who disagree with you (Ethiopian Review) and clean your own act of censorship first.

    You and your colleagues at the Ethiopian Review are the most undemocratic, hypocrite individuals who do not give a dam about freedom of information/speech. You are just out there to criticise others. Clean up your bad acts and do not censor people’s opinion and comments.

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