VOA “no censorship” campaign scores big victory By Abebe Gellaw

July 26th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Washington DC–Hours after hundreds of protesters demanded Monday top executives of Voice of America (VOA) and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to stop censoring and putting undue pressures on the Horn of Africa section, VOA Acting Director and Executive Editor, Steve Redisch, gathered the section’s staffers and told them to continue their work without any restrictions or self-censorship.

In the brief meeting, Mr. Redisch said that he felt sorry for not meeting them sooner and thanked the section’s staffers for the “marvelous” job they have been doing. He also expressed VOA’s trust on them and their professionalism, informed sources told Addis Voice.

“I have no problems with your shows,” Redisch was quoted as saying. He told them to perform their duty as they used to before regardless of the complaints of the government of Ethiopia. He said that VOA had never asked anyone to give less priority and airtime to political coverage.

The director noted that in a country like Ethiopia, which is beset with serious political problems, VOA journalists cannot ignore political matters. According to our sources, what Redisch told staffers was contrary to orders and restrictions issued by the Africa Division Director, Gwen Dillard, who insisted on less coverage on political matters, introduced a “clearnace” system and restricted some issues including critical listeners comment on recent developments within VOA. The situation had created fear and anxiety among some staffers.
Though he declined to give more details on the questionable “administrative” measures taken against former Horn of Africa Chief, David Arnold, who was suspended for his comments in a June 23rd VOA Amharic report, Redisch expressed support to his colleague. He assured them that he would fight for Arnold and confirmed the fact that he was reinstated but transferred to the English section.

One of the experienced broadcasters of VOA Amharic service, Adanech Fissehaye, thanked Redisch for putting an end to the confusion, which had made their job very difficult. She told the VOA director that she was very relieved to hear his assurances, according to our sources.
“The last few weeks have been a roller coaster for us. I am very happy that our self-confidence has been restored.

“We were gripped with fear but Redisch uplifted our morale and spirit,” a source said. “The coordinated campaign Ethiopian activists have launched to rescue the service we render has undoubtedly made a real difference,” the source added.

Earlier in the day, Ethiopian protesters braved heat waves and demanded VOA and BBG to make sure that the Horn of Africa section operates freely without any undue pressures and censorship. “No censorship! VOA remain true to your missions…,” chanted the protesters. In a letter they submitted to VOA and BBG executives, they demanded investigation into reports of censorship and maladministration.

“We are writing today to request an investigation into reports of censorship at the Voice of America Horn of Africa section, which has been serving Ethiopians as the only powerful source of uncensored news and views. What is more worrying is the fact that the difficulties facing the VOA Horn of Africa section transpired after the Meles regime reportedly demanded VOA to banish a list of critics from appearing on its programs and coverage,” the letter stated.

“It is with high regard for BBG and VOA in particular, we humbly request you to ensure and guarantee that VOA continues to give the vital service it has been providing to the silenced people of Ethiopia consistent with its mission, the First Amendment of the United States constitution and America’s cherished values of freedom and democracy,” the letter demanded.

The letter further noted that Ethiopians do not want VOA to be hijacked by the agenda of Ethiopia’s repressive regime and added that they do not wish to see “VOA lose its vitality and service as a truly independent alternative media to the people of Ethiopia.”

In a separate letter the activists addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they urged the Obama administration to give utmost priority to the hunger starvation stocking millions of Ethiopians especially in the Ogaden, where the Meles regime has been waging war against dissidents and NOGs providing lifelines to the starving millions.

They also appealed Clinton to put pressure on the Meles regime to unconditionally release two young journalists, Reyot Alemu of Fitih and Wubishet Taye, Deputy Editor of Awramba Times. Both journalists are held under the anti-terrorism act only for writing sharply critical stories and articles.

The rally opposite the headquarters of BBG and VOA was loud and rousing. A few protesters came from faraway places. Finland resident Yeworkwoha Asrat attended the rally with her husband Belaneh Bekele. Though they came to the US on holiday, the felt that it was very important to join the rally to add their voice in the effort to rescue VOA Amharic, which has been seriously affected by the recent crisis. “VOA has to operate freely and serve the people of Ethiopia as it used to,” Yeworkwoha said.

Tedla Asfaw drove all the way from New York. He said that the Voice of America should not be transformed into the Voice of China. “VOA should never be censored in the land of freedom,” he said.

The VOA director promised to explain current developments in relation to the Horn of Africa section. He is expected to give an elaborate interview with VOA Amharic section, according to our sources.

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  1. DRAMA
    | #1


  2. Birtu/can
    | #2

    The woyane opposition inside and outside of Ethiopia is under siege. Let’s see some examples. Meles recently sent his thugs to Atlanta in a private jet to intimidate Ethiopian soccer fans. He is now conspiring behind the scene to cut down VOA’s effectiveness amongst diaspora Ethiopians. He keeps jamming ESAT at the speed of light crippling its satellite transmission to Ethiopia. Which takes me back to an issue raised by Messay Kebede a few weeks ago. Can we really meet with Melese’s government half way? Is this the kind of government he wants us to deal with? I say ” no way jose!!”.

    At a time when Mubarack and Ben Ali are held accountable for their crimes and brought to justice, some (not only Messay) amongst us are contemplating to sit and talk in a round table with none other than dictator Meles Zenawi himself. All his crimes are washed away with a stroke of a pen thanks to the brilliant idea of Ato Messay Kebede. I don’t know about you, but i don’t like dining with a murderer whose hands are dripping blood. It is an open secret that Melese’s government is responsible for countless atrocities such as murder, torture, imprisonment, treason…etc. Unless we are willing to sweep these facts under the rug and play dumb and stupid, dialogue with TPLF mafia is out of the question. If we follow this path history will judge us for “guilt by association”. This type of cowardly peace offer has undoubtedly emboldened Meles Zenawi to the point of untouchable state of mind. That’s why he is gradually pulling himself out from defensive mode into offensive position in our own turf. Just look at VOA saga. I can see Meles advising his partners in crime to ” stay the course” because the oppostion is crumbling under pressure or fatigue. My feeling is some of our ” persona non Grata” intellectuals are missing Ethiopia so much that they are ready to wave the white flag in order to go back home as a “legal opposition”. I want these naive Ethiopians to visit some of woyane’s track record once more: the tens of thousands who perished in a meaningless Eritrean war–the thousands murdered in cold blood in the streets of all major Ethiopian cities–the unknown numbers still languishing in woyane’s dungeons– the uncontested give away of the only sea port connecting Ethiopia to the rest of the world–the selling of fertile lands piece by piece for persona gain–the billions that flew out of the country and stashed in foreign banks. The list goes on and on.

    Meles and his government are accountable for all these crimes. Criminals should be brought to justice, period. NO EXCUSES! NO EXCEPTIONS! One doesn’t have to have a PhD to understand this concept. Ato Messay better scratch his “out of the box” idea and bring it back “inside the box” lock and throw away the key. Bottom line, NO DIALOGUE WITH MURDERERS!!


  3. Tekle
    | #3

    Lets keep on building on the success story… some oppositon forces seem to have chosen silence than expressing their views

  4. Degu
    | #4

    Thank you Mr. Redisch and Mr. Gellaw as well.
    Now we know that the Ethiopian government officials didn’t ask the Board members to prohibit any person from appearing on VOA shows. Mr. Redisch has said that “Contrary to the VOA report, at no time did Ethiopian government officials ask the Board members to prohibit any individuals from appearing on VOA programs. Consistent with VOA’s standards of accuracy and not for reasons of self-censorship, the report was taken off the website,”
    However, to this date one question remains unanswered. Why the Voice of America (VOA) Horn of Africa ex-chief David Arnold disseminated inaccurate information? It was a deliberate and outrageous attempt to smear the Ethiopian government. I think the Ethiopian people needs to know the motive behind this issue.
    VOA was also supposed to apologize for misleading its audiences besides removing the inaccurate information from its web sites.

  5. The Eritrean one!
    | #5

    Meles and his boss Bereket Simon should have been prosecuted for the 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrea war that cost nearly 200000 human lives; they should have prosecuted for murdering 193 unarmed civilians during the so called election of 2005; they should have been prosecuted for invading Somalia and causing Somalians death and destruction up to this second. My fellow Ethiopian brothers and sisters there is no doubt Eritreans, Ethiopians, Somalians as well as all other horn of African communities can have political differences or opinions but CAN ANYBODY EXPLAIN TO ME AS TO WHY THE AIGA JUNGLE PRODUcTS ARE GIVEN A GREEN LIGHT BY AMERICA to murder innocent citizens. Africans should unite against these dual so called Ethiopian leaders, Meles and his boss Bereket Simon, that are causing death and destruction, that are causing hate and incitement against their own people, and lets focus on one can unite us and get out of the misery that the whole of Africa is facing today: hunger, ignorance, war, and slavery through dupious diplomacy al weyane style.

  6. Alen
    | #6

    Thanks Mr. Redisch and VOA Staffs for the response to our concern. we don’t want VOA to be copy of the Ethiopia Radio. I hope the new managment will let us know the results of the investigation soon and make appropriate measures.

  7. qualebicha
    | #7

    In his own life, Zinawi is a loser.Even,worse,the last 11 hours is going to be Zinawi ends up in being captured for a trial before millions of Ethiopians that he joked on and hurt badly.Indeed,Ethiopians have scored victory over those who collaborated and partnered with Zinawi and his associates.

    Ethiopians,keep the faith,keep the fight till victory.Your courage scored a victory on the scale.

  8. Oda Tulu
    | #8

    Thank you profoundly for your outstanding performance and advocacy to bring voice for the voiceless.

  9. Yohannes Ke Dallas
    | #9

    I am grateful for Ethiopians in DC area who protested against this shameful act of VOA BBG and my special thanks to Abebe Gelaw, Tamagn Beyene, Tedla Asfaw, Abebe Belew and others the unsung heroes who are not mentioned here to co-ordinate and participate on such victorious protest. The voiceless Ethiopians who suffered under tyranny are proud of you guys.
    These censorship issues were discussed and much damage has been done to entertain Bereket’s demand if it was not detected by courageous freedom loving activists Abebe Gelaw, it was on the verge of implementation. Still it looks likes fishy to me that the managements announcement to stand by the principle and uphold the VOA charter. I could see, that they were in the middle of the road to give way to the Ethiopian regime’s demand, had it not been confronted with stiff resistant. Now they want to hush the voices as their plan was unconstitutional and they fear for accountability. In the country called America, the beacon of freedom, citizens enjoys checks and balances, any legitimate grievances could be heard and that would cost any public servant his job if he or she is not performing according to the charter. So freedom is earned not given. We have to be vigilant and know our rights as Ethiopian Americans tax payers. We could do more if we unite to fight against tyranny.

  10. Dawi
    | #10

    Bertu there is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

    The Good is there is no such thing as a general “Woyane opposition inside and outside” per Se, as Prof. Messay pointed out on ESAT recently, only “elites contesting for power” are what we have. They look for a group which has values that are aligned to their fundamental beliefs, and when they find one, they will stick to that.

    The Bad is Meles/Woyane opposition/supporters don’t really “support” opposition groups such as (OLF, G7,ONLF) per Se, although they may prefer them over the Meles Dictatorship for now. What they really support is the ideas or ideals of some of the “opposition” like G7 (not OLF/OLNF) stand for, human rights, rule of law, democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, etc. They feel the Meles Dictatorship has not accommodated their demands in these respects. But deep down in their hearts, they actually wish the Dictator accepts Messay’s “Manifesto” to run the country.

    They oppose Messay and support (OLF,G7, ONLF) not because they really “support” them per Se, but because they assume the Meles Dictatorship will never give them what they want for now. In truth, they want the Meles Dictatorship to change much more than they want the “opposition” particularly (OLF, ONLF) to succeed.

    Such opposition/supporters are “ugly” because they don’t really support the opposition but, are really out to oppose the Meles Dictatorship. And they blame those (Messay) that stick their neck out.

    Such “supporters” are here and many Ethiopian websites. They spend their time criticizing everything folks like the far sighted Messay’s proposal by associating it to the Meles Dictatorship. Every single thing that goes wrong they blame it on the “Proposal” or the Meles Dictatorship. Even when the Dictatorship does something good (Abay Dam), they criticize it for being too little too late.

    While such opposition “supporters” can be counted on for their loud voice, I think it’s just plain unhealthy for any opposition groups to build a “support base” through just anti-Woyane sentiments. I feel sad that such an active segment exists among the Diaspora Ethiopians.

    It is of course a sad reflection of Ethiopian politics that the frustrations of Ethiopians is not being allowed to legitimately express its views without being insulted.

  11. PEGAN
    | #11

    Is that supposed to mean just “god” and “allah” zealuts are the prefered ones in the Nation?

    What is up with Tamagne dissing “non believers”?

  12. Takach yomaa
    | #12

    Go Mr. Redisch!Mr. Redisch liberate ethiopian from Meles Zenawi Mr. Redisch!Mr. Redisch! you Are the god of Ethiopia

  13. Belay Zeleke
    | #13

    People let me tell you one thing, you know it, but you don’t want to think of it, and the thing is very simple to understand, Meles is not going to leave from his power anytime soon,so why are all of you waste your precious times, you might think i am kind of weird but the only solution to the end of the dictatorial regime in Ethiopia is to talk to the regime with the language that he know most and that would be an armed struggle you may say it is old fashioned but this is the reality in Ethiopia.

  14. lozeema
    | #14

    It was the best of victory for Ethiopians,it was the worst of defeat for the enemy that invaded and occupied our homeland.I am telling you,life was not easy for VOA collaborators with the enemy since Ethiopians came out in synergy and made the VOA boss to think correct and wise;indeed,VOA can not bend the rule of laws and media freedom consequently,laws and rules steered tje VOA to the right direction.As per the enemy that occupied our country,it shall be fully defeated as the VOA has been.

  15. Sheger
    | #15

    Good job VOA!!!!!!!!

    We have faith in you. And you didn’t let us down. Thank you.!!!!!!

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