VOA censorship chief revealed – By Abebe Gellaw

July 18th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

WASHINGTON, DC - In response to a recent Addis Voice investigative report, VOA embroiled in fresh censorship row, Voice of America issued a very brief statement Thursday explaining why VOA skipped coverage of a high profile public meeting held at the Sheraton in Arlington, Virginia. The event was jointly organized by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Ginbot 7 and the Alliance for Liberty Equality and Justice in Ethiopia (ALEJE).

“There are many news events going on in the Washington area and VOA cannot cover them all. That is all we will have for you on this matter,” David Borgida, VOA Director of Public Relations, said in an email. But the PR director later declined to give further clarifications and answers to follow-up questions on the matter. Contrary to VOA’s official statement, Addis Voice can reveal that the Amharic desk had assigned an experienced staff member, who attended the event, to do the report that was scheduled to be aired on Monday July 11. According to reliable sources, the decision to censor the coverage was made by the Director of Africa Division, Gwen Dillard.

Ms. Dillard has reportedly communicated to Horn of Africa staff members that VOA should give less attention to the Ethiopian Diaspora as well as issues focused on political affairs. She emailed to staff that VOA would be more focused on development related matters, a questionable line which appears to be consistent with the demands of the Meles regime.
It emerged that Ms. Dillard was asked by her bosses why the event was not covered. She informed them that no one was assigned to cover it. “What Ms. Dillard told her bosses not only contradicts the truth but also seems to be a cover-up effort on her part. The truth of the matter was that she cut out the event from VOA coverage by inserting her disparaging bias to the Ethiopian Diaspora,” said one of our sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Dillard had earlier sent out emails to Horn of Africa section staff members that practically imposed a news and opinion blackout on issues related to the David Arnold saga as well as the controversy over censorship at VOA. As a result of her orders, a lot of listeners’ call-in comments on the ongoing controversy at VOA have been filtered out, according to informed sources.

“VOA, as an independent broadcaster, cannot filter unfavorable news and opinions about its conduct and integrity. It beggars belief to suppose that VOA only reports about others but not matters closer to home,” another source added.

After Arnold was removed from his position as Horn of Africa chief, Dillard has made some questionable interventions in the affairs of the section. Dallard also refused to approve coverage of the 28th annual Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA) event, which was held from July 3 to July 9 in Atlanta at the world-famous Georgia Dome, the largest cable-supported domed stadium in the world. ESFNA annual festival is arguably the biggest cultural, sports and social event among the Ethiopian Diaspora.

Meanwhile, Addis Voice has also learnt that the controversial June 23rd VOA report on the visit of three Board of Broadcasting Governors (BBG) and VOA delegation to Ethiopia contains no factual errors. Mr. Arnold accurately revealed that Bereket Simon, Meles Zenawi’s close confidant and Minister of Government Communication Affairs, demanded the delegation to ban a long list of dissidents and critics from VOA airwaves.

Arnold was suspended in a letter written by BBG Governor Michael Meehan, a member of the delegation that met with Ethiopian government officials last month. While the official VOA position on the report in question is that it contained unacceptable inaccuracies, it emerged that no single factual error was found in the report. “The suspension of Arnold for telling the truth was shocking. It created a sense of insecurity among his colleagues,” a source said.

The Board of Broadcasting Governors met last Thursday to look at ongoing strategic reviews and reform processes. One of the delegates to Ethiopia, Southern Sudan and Nigeria, BBG Governor Susan McCue, told the board that some progress was made in Southern Sudan and Nigeria in relation of the expansion of VOA broadcasts. McCue reported neither success nor failure during the delegation’s tense meetings with Bereket Simon, who is widely seen in Ethiopia as the archenemy of press freedom. Simon is also in charge of jamming VOA and other broadcasts to Ethiopia.

Ethiopian activists have called a rally next Monday, July 25th opposite VOA headquarters, 330 Independence Ave SW, Washington DC, to demand VOA and BBG to investigate allegations of censorship and malpractice. The protesters will also petition the US Congress, BBG and State Department to look into controversial developments related to allegations of censorship and maladministration at VOA to appease the Meles regime.

Addis Voice will publish a secret document tomorrow that contains a long list of critics and opinions blacklisted by the Meles regime.


Abebe Gellaw can be reached at editor@addisvoice.com

  1. Truth
    | #1

    I smell Woyane dirty money at work here.

  2. Kiflu Hussain
    | #2

    Dear Abebe Gellaw,I would like to commend you for your consistent coverage and exposure of the hypocrisy of the United States Government,with concrete evidences.

  3. DRAMA
    | #3

    THERE IS QUITE A NUMBER OF ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS CREATING A DRAMA EVERY TIME. PEOPLE, YOU NEED TO SORT OUT WHO IS MAKING THE DRAMA AND WHO IS B.S-ING OUR PEOPLE ALONG WITH THE FERENJIS. WHO IN THE HALE REALLY HAVE A MOVEMENT OF THE GROUND IN ETHIOPIA????? STARTING FROM BIRHANU TO THE SO CALLED OLF(AN ORGANIZATION THAT ONLY LIBERATES A SO CALLED OROMO ETHNIC, AND NOW SOME GUTTER IMAGINARY MOVEMENT CALLED BEQA); NO OFFENSE, BUT WHO HAS A REAL MOVEMENT ON THE GROUND???? MAYBE IN CYBER SPACE. COME ON PEOPLE. WHEN DID THESE CHARACTERS AND ORGANIZATIONS CAMPAIGNED OR DID GROUND WORK TO UNIFY OUR PEOPLE … OR CREATE A SO CALLED GROUND TROOPS????????????????????????? I THINK A LOT OF THESE CHARACTERS ARE NOTHING BUT DRAMA MAKERS FOR THE BIG MOVIE WHICH ENDS UP CORRUPTING THE ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE. PERIOD. TALK IS CHEAP AND WHAT DO THEY HAVE IN ETHIOPIA? STOP BULL CRAPING THE HECK OUT OF CYBER SPACE. THIS COMMENT WAS NOT ABOUT THE WRITER, SOLELY ABOUT THE CHARACTERS IN THE ARTICLE. ALAS

  4. wow
    | #4

    We should organize demonstration against VOA and sign petition for senate and congress investigation …this should be organize ASAP.

    God Bless Ethiopia!

  5. Beya
    | #5

    Tigre People Liberation Front,TPLF seized power by violence and murder. The TPLF gun men understand only the power of violence and force. Although, Meles wrote a ‘constitution’ which declares freedom of speech and assembly, he wrote the ‘constitution’ for an foreign audiences; ie to his financiers, the usa, britain, germany etc. Meles is a cameleon, who has mastered the art of deception and his principle is ‘speak their language and stretch your begging bowl’. Every time he is criticised Meles tells his sponsors, read my constitution, I am as democrat as you are; and they believe him. That is how he is surviving.

    US, BRITAIN etc know exactly what is going on with Meles; but the fact is they don’t care an iota about what he does as long as he speaks their language at G8 meeting and other places they invite him and is doing what they tell him to do. He is sending Ethiopian troops carrying american guns to fight somalis. America is now sponsoring rogue regimes like meles’s TPLF to do their dirty work around the world. It is blood money Meles lives on.

    Look at what happened in Egypt; even when Mubarak was on the brink of collapse the US was unwilling to commit itself on the side of the Egyptian people. The reason is that Mubarak was their YES man who does what he is told to do. This is how it all works.

  6. Oda Tulu
    | #6

    Abebe Gellaw is a superb journalist and creative son of Ethiopia.

  7. Sheger
    | #7

    A full can ask him self, “does it ever rain in Egypt?” like it doesn’t. Some time the world can be based on what you know. It is our business to know and have public wisdom and the world around us. So please stop blocking VOA
    Or any kind of public interests and medias privet or not. Let people have a freedom to express them selves and public
    Medias give chances to people equally to exercise their wrights and opinion and clarifying their stand on things.

    That is what you call opposition by the way. Wether they are or not. If one affects to a point of pressuring law in some body elses country, I mean, think about it. And blocking international medias? Next thing you know they might say
    They need to decide who should be at the White house or at the Walls or what kind of under wear we all should be wearing. But any how we will use it all if they have a positive opinion on things, we are not like them who says “my way
    Or the high way”. For their crook and cruel doings.

  8. Derbabaw
    | #8

    Abebe Gelaw is conducting exceptional jornalism when he decided to take this issue.His investigative report ,that is instead of accepting news reports in their face value, takes the story and the issue to the very source and informs us what exactly happened behind the scene, and exposing the real but camofulaged PICTURE by THE LAND SCAPE PAINTERS of the POLITICAL OPERATIVES within VOA management.
    Such contempt for the Ethiopian people and this level of rapprochement with its backers could not have been contemplated by weyane if it was not for the lack of Unity among us. Finally, thank God people saw that danger of weyane’s divide and rule strategy, and are able to devise a counter strategy to fight against the destructive policy of weyane. Unity is antidote against the weyane CABL. So long the (ALEJE) deny any form of opening for weyane infiltrators. Instead (ALEJE) need to develop trust, and confidence among its rank to promote peace, and then we can surly weyane’s sudden destruction will follow. The key is to be vigilant against infiltrators including by Eretrians.The remaining task is to convince the western leaders that the Ethiopian people’s movement is not sectarian any more. Mean while, west and the U.S in particular need not be unduly concerned about security treat in the region, which the arch enemy was able to exploit. Beside, the post weyane government is committed to promote peace and security in the region.
    And, west can be better off with the representative government than to court relationship with one of the worst autocratic regime in the region.

  9. Sheger
    | #9

    I agree with you derbabaw, but we don’t have representative government at the moment.

    What I don’t understand is that where do they get the carge to say we need this we need that for the starved? When
    They are not even alawing journalists to go to the stricken areas. Well they got some money we will see if they are
    Kind and smart enough to by one peace of Coconut from Tanzania or Kenya or where ever they can get it, which in my believe is water and food at the same time and it stays cold with out a freezer and it doesn’t spoil easily and specially
    when the problem worsening because of luck of clean water. Not that, that is all they need but it can seriously help
    The situation.

  10. Ephrem
    | #10

    We have to be careful in handling this new Sheriff in town. She may try to play the race game(card)from the bottom deck. So everyone must be cautious with the choice of our words. That is the name of the game these when some brothers and sisters are caught gaffing or smacked in the spotlight.

  11. qualebicha
    | #11

    Yes,yes;we all agree that this,the newly discovered spy,the Dillard that has been planted in VOA by the ruthless murderer,Meles Zinawi must be ashamed of herself and ignorant of the reality.

    Ms.Dillard must be taken accountable and responsible for being participatory in the spy network that has been laid out by Zinawi,and must she be known that Ethiopians will not leave her the way she is without being taken to the court where she will face inflitration into Ethiopians’affair via VOA that she has been hired and paid by,and now for breaking the rules and the laws that she sworn to respect.Ms.Dillard can no longer be trusted;therefore,must resign as soon as she can before too late;moreover,she will soon witness that Zinawi will be outsted.

  12. Sheger
    | #12

    Each of this 10 million starved has 3million dollar each if you give the 8 million to the people that assists the aid.
    That is what they got only from England. But some time the problem in the matter is that aid agencies take a big
    Pease of it like 40 percent. In the case of Japan which are 100 million, all are milliners at this point but all they got
    Is 2 grand for each person affected. I mean $2,000. And that is with out mentioning the whole situation of Japan and
    How expensive things are in Japan.

  13. Tesfa Group
    | #13

    If you want to bitch, bitch with all the right reasons please. The VOA has every right to choose what they want to broadcast and what to leave out. Meles on the other hand can also ask who should be blacklisted. Will VOA honor that? That is a different question all in all and none of you including the original writers failed to establish.
    You have all showed us how ignorant you can be…Remember everyone FOX NEWS is fair and balanced right?

  14. Yey
    | #14

    Truth,

    Keep sniffing

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