Open petition to the Voice of America

September 15th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

Open petition to the Voice of America

Mr. David Ensor,

Director, Voice of America

330 Independence Ave., S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20237

Dear Mr. Ensor,

I, the undersigned petitioner, would like to bring a serious case of distortion to your attention as it requires not whitewashing but honest, principled and objective actions to restore the credibility of Voice of America Amharice service. [Sign the Petition]

Like so many listeners of VOA Amharic, I tune to your transmissions to get accurate and reliable news and information mainly about Ethiopia, a country where freedom of expression is criminalized.

On August 12, 2014, VOA Amharic reporter Henok Semaegzer Fente broadcast a story that appeared to be aimed at refuting another story reported by other Ethiopian journalists. The news had already been reported with substantial evidence that APU had to cancel the ceremony mainly due to the fact that its leadership reviewed human rights violations as detailed in the U.S. State Department annual human rights report.

However, Fente reported that the reason why the event was cancelled was just because the PM called APU to say that he had to return to Ethiopia because of urgent matters. This was in fact false because the event was slated for July 31st, 2014. The PM only arrived in the U.S. on August 4, 2014 to attend the African Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. So how could he return to Ethiopia before he even set foot on U.S. soils? This is not only false but also totally absurd. Besides, in such a high profile honorary event, if the honoree was not able to attend, his or her representative receives the award or the honor. Quite obviously, there was more to the story than Fente’s unconvincing and distorted report.

Fente also quoted a letter that was never written. I suspect that as journalist Abebe Gellaw said Fente’s quotes and letter were fabricated as he has insisted that he never wrote such a letter. I believe this also warrants a serious investigation to establish the facts.

While the reporters that Fente accused of lying have presented incontrovertible evidence on ESAT radio and TV as well as a few Ethiopian websites including three recorded interviews with Ms. Rachel White, APU’s spokesperson, the VOA reporter presented none.

It is, therefore, with utmost sincerity that I appeal to you to look into my complaints. I must take this opportunity to express my disappointment with a recent statement which was said to have been issued by BBG regarding this matter. The statement neither addressed the problems nor presented any objective and credible evidence.

I strongly feel that Fente has misinformed millions of its Ethiopian listeners by broadcasting an unverified, distorted and false story. VOA owes an apology to me and millions of others.

Again, I humbly request you to take my complaints seriously, investigate the matter thoroughly and take appropriate measures to correct the distortions and retract Fente’s story which I believe lacked accuracy, fairness, balance and objectivity.

I would also like to you remove Peter Heinlein, who reportedly played a key role in this scandal, and Fente from VOA Amharic related programs. Ethiopian listeners deserve fair, balanced, objective and accurate reporting at all times.

I do believe that VOA will be able to restore its credibility instead of endorsing a glaring case of deliberate distortion.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Respectfully yours

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