By Yilma Bekele
There is an Amharic saying that comes to mind when you think of the current revelations regarding VOA and its dealings with Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Thanks to Ato Abebe Gelaw’s investigative work we are able to see the inside workings of the independent News Organization. Its credibility is under a magnifying glass and it does not look good. What good is the news if it is filtered? Here is an excerpt from VOA’s Charter and Journalistic code:
The Voice of America pursues its mission today in a world conflict-ridden and unstable in the post-Cold War era. Broadcasting accurate, balanced and complete information to the people of the world, and particularly to those who are denied access to accurate news, serves the national interest and is a powerful source of inspiration and hope for all those who believe in freedom and democracy.
The question becomes is VOA abiding by its code? The fact of the matter is abiding by the code is the only currency VOA got. Its credibility should never be brought into question. The report shows biased attitude and impartiality. That is not acceptable from an organization set up by the taxpayer to tell the truth, inspire and give hope.
The Ethiopian people inside and the Diaspora all over the world is not asking for special favors. We abhor censorship. We do not exclude anyone. We welcome the inclusion of Ethiopian government officials being interviewed by your able reporters. We look forward to see the Prime Minster sitting with VOA and independent Ethiopian journalists for an in depth interview.
We are dismayed by the actions of the African Division Director. The Ethiopian people are denied access to accurate and independent news. Ethiopian Independent news outlets have been systematically destroyed. VOA itself was the recipient of the Ethiopian dictatorial regime’s wrath when its reporters were accused of genocide after the 2005 stolen ballot. What does the Director not get here? Has the VOA appealed to other agencies to thwart the jamming devices of the rogue regime? Why is VOA open to such outrageous demands by a regime seen as the enemy of free and independent media?
President Obama when nominating a candidate to be Supreme Court Justice said “I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.” That kind of mind set up is what we expect of VOA directors. That reflects the best of America. Dancing with the current abuser is not a winning strategy.
It is not a good feeling to think VOA can be pushed around at the whims of the Directors or the demands of a Warlord. There is nothing sacred anymore? As we have questioned their level of integrity I hope they take measures to reflect upon their inner workings and its adherence to their code.
There was a time when VOA, DW were the only independent voices informing the Ethiopian people. We are always grateful of that. But as things go we have figured that it is always good to have your own too. Who else can speak better about you than yourself? Thus we created ESAT. We know we can compete with the best of them for the ears of the Ethiopian people. Of course we do not have a rich uncle that can give us billions of dollars and satellites galore and digital sound at our disposal. Sorry ESAT. I see the directors salivating with the prospect of High Altitude satellite broadcasting in Dolby digital sound. No more “ESAT meta ESAT hede.”
We are getting there. Now this business of VOA directors not allowing the professionals to do their job is as I said not acceptable. We have different avenues of showing our outrage and demand equal treatment in different ways that I know of:
· Go to the July 25 rally in DC.
· Send an email to VOA director [email protected]
· Donate to ESAT and help build our own alternative media. http://www.ethsat.com/
It is a free country. If VOA does not change its ways of dancing with criminals we will start organizing to meet representative of Congress that hold the purse strings of VOA. That is our right. I don’t think we will go there. You know why? My pessimism is rooted in an old Amharic saying.
ጨው ለራስህ ስትል ጣፍት ያለዚያ ድንጋይ ነው ብለው ይጥሉሃል
If VOA goes the way of Radio Ethiopia it is not difficult to predict its future.