ESAT Europe Support Committee
Background information and Statement of the problem
In spite of Ethiopia’s long history and the fact that the nation is one of the ancient civilizations, the country is being ruled by absolute dictatorship which evolved to ethnic based totalitarianism under TPLF/EPRDF administration. Particularly in the aftermaths of the 2005 Ethiopian national elections, the regime developed a strategy of steadily shrinking press freedom and systematically eliminating independent newspapers in an attempt to rule the people of Ethiopia in total darkness. Among the enacted three deeply flawed laws by Zenawi’s regime is the media law. The law contained numerous provisions that fundamentally violets freedom and human rights guaranteed under Ethiopia’s constitution and international laws – aimed at terrorizing journalists that report facts and criticize the intolerable TPLF policies. Escalating its repression the regime’s antiterrorism proclamation (ATP) of the 2009 has been widely used to criminalize any critical comments and dissent opposition in an attempt for an absolute grip over the media and to root out the seedlings of democracy. Pro-opposition websites has been blocked and jamming of websites and Medias including VOA and ESAT is frequent and is widely acknowledged by international organizations as stated underneath.
Reporter without boarders stated that Ethiopia’s press freedom is worsening; newspapers and journalists are under constant trait. It also stated that Ethiopia has joined the list of sub-Saharan countries that are keeping a close eye on the media and trying to control or influence editorial policies. Due to the regime’s increasing intolerance, it has been doing everything it can to stifle the critical impulses of journalists and to make life difficult for the private media. “The government is trying to suffocate the media”. In its statement the France-based international non-governmental organization urged the Ethiopian government to stop creating climate of fear against media professionals.
Freedom House (an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights) stated in 2011 authoritarian regimes in various parts of the world censored news of the Arab uprisings fearing domestic unrest. Governments of various countries in Africa and the Middle East employed techniques ranging from information blackouts in the state media to sophisticated internet and text-message filtering. Ethiopia is among those nations which experienced substantial deterioration of press freedom in 2011 and independent media’s continued to face challenges. In its assessment Ethiopia score significant decline and is not free. Freedom on the net status measures countries level of internet and digital media freedom with numerical score from 0 the most free to 100 the least free.
In its 2012 report Freedom House stated Ethiopia received a numerical value of 75 (freedom on the net total) and Ethiopia is in category of not free (freedom on the net status). In its assessment it indicated that Ethiopia is among those not free countries where the government blocks large number of politically relevant websites and the state invested significant resources in technical capacity and manpower to identify content for blocking. It also indicated that such governments (not free countries) employ a range of tactics to curb internet freedom – including imposing pressure on bloggers, arresting users who post political comments that are critical of the authorities and use blocking and filtering as key tool for limiting free expression. Moreover concerned with the power of new technologies to catalyze political change Ethiopia is among the authoritarian states that have taken various measures to filter, monitor, or otherwise obstruct free speech online (Freedom House 2012 report).
According to the African Federation of Journalists, many African countries have accelerated their abuse and imprisonment of journalists and Eastern Africa is the worst affected. In its assessment it stated that Ethiopia is sliding in treatment of reporters and imprisoning journalists on anti-terrorism charges. In its report African Federation of Journalists highlighted the case of Eskinder Nega – renowned journalist who is among Ethiopian journalists imprisoned on anti-terrorism charges for criticizing of the EPRDF regime following Arab uprisings. Moreover an open letter by international journalists to the TPLF/EPRDF foreign minister highlights broader abuses: “Ethiopia’s history of harassing, exiling and detaining both domestic and foreign reporters has been well-documented. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists Ethiopia is the second-leading jailer of journalists in Africa. Over the past decade, 79 Ethiopian reporters have fled into exile, the most of any country in the world, according to CPJ data. A number of these have worked as stringers for international news agencies. Additionally, since 2006, the regime has detained or expelled foreign correspondents from the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, Bloomberg News, the Christian Science Monitor, the Voice of America, and the Washington Post.
Justification on the exceptional role of ESAT and the intended EU campaign
In today’s Ethiopia there is one national TV, one national radio, one national daily, one English daily, one internet service provider and one telecom all under strict control of the dictatorial TPLF/EPRDF regime. The state-run media is solely focused on crude propaganda and shuts out critical views. As a result of this Ethiopians have been hungry of a media outlet that report facts and provide accurate analysis established for and by Ethiopians thus is accountable to the people. Realizing the complex challenge free press experiencing in our country and the inexorable aspiration of Ethiopian people for free media, Ethiopians founded the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) in 2010; and also established international support chapters all over the world. ESAT aspires to fill the gap so that the Ethiopian people will have unrestricted access to information, diverse viewpoints and perspectives.
The guiding principle in establishment and broadcasting of ESAT, the first independent Ethiopian satellite service, fully concur with Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” To this end since its establishment ESAT is tasked to produce accurate and balanced news and information, as well as other entertainment, created for and by Ethiopians. It is committed to the highest standards of broadcast journalism and programming and will strive to provide an outlet of expression to all segments of the diverse Ethiopian community worldwide. Particularly it subscribes to the central principles of professional journalists that “public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.” (http://ethsat.com/editorial-policy/) ESAT believes that a well-functioning independent press is an essential element of a democratic system by exposing corruption, abuse of power, mismanagement and embezzlement of public resources. ESAT also believes that without free access to information and ideas, citizens are unable to participate meaningfully in the political system by exercising their right to vote or by taking part in the efforts to shape the process of public policy and decision making (http://ethsat.com/about-us/).
The primary objective of ESAT is therefore to provide free access to information for the people of Ethiopia (http://ethsat.com/about-us/).
Currently, ESAT relies on the support it receives from individual donors and contributions from the Ethiopian Diaspora. Hence ESAT relies on the contribution of its supporters to stay on air. Given the fact that successful task of public enlightenment is not usually cheap and rarely works overnight; sustained fundraising campaign is vital. In any society the journey for democracy requires various instruments of democratization. The appeal of the media either as companion or alternative to other instruments of democratization is obvious. It is cheaper and less dangerous. It is also more effective than the acts of diplomacy in successfully igniting the path for democratization. Moreover in Ethiopia’s oppressive political system ESAT contributes in converting from opponent to democratic point of view or at least encourage rationality- is a possibility – which must appeal to all except the misanthropes. Countering the crude propaganda of the regime’s run media with fact based reporting and analysis do provide the Ethiopian public the data and thus confidence to demand genuine democracy. Free media also helps in protecting the path for democracy, when successfully ignited.
Mr. Tamagne Beyene ESAT Europe tour
Since its establishment ESAT has been striving to raise fund from Ethiopian diaspora all over the world. In this regard the renowned activist and artist Tamagne Beyene has made many successful campaigns all over the world. The scheduled Europe campaign tour by Mr. Tamagne is part of his active and unwavering commitment to see democratic Ethiopia. Particularly his role towards supporting and fund raising for ESAT is remarkable. Subsequent to the 2005 Ethiopian national election the quest for democracy by Ethiopian people, both at home and in the diaspora, has been significantly weakened. To this end ESAT has played momentous role in uplifting the spirit of Ethiopian people, the quest for democracy and unity – in which the role of Mr. Tamagne is again very remarkable.
Expected output and beneficiaries
The planned campaign in seven cities across Europe has several benefits for EAST and Ethiopians both at home and in the diaspora. The tour will not only inspire people who are already ESAT supporters to keep on contributing to this novel case; but also encourages those who felt hopeless to take part towards the common objective for democratizing Ethiopia. In the aftermath of the 2005 election one of the ingredients that significantly depressed many Ethiopians, on the quest of democracy in our country, is lack of strong credible independent Media of our own. The establishment of ESAT successfully voids that gap. The tour by Mr. Tamagne thus promotes democratic sentiment among Ethiopians at home and abroad particularly the diaspora residing in Europe. It contributes towards encouraging Ethiopians to demand human and democratic rights in our country. The planned tour also helps to encourage pessimists of democracy and even fanatic supporters of the regime to question their view and the danger that such exclusionist view has been pausing on our country. In such circumstances countering the crude propaganda of the TPLF regime, which attempts to manipulate and control public opinion, with accurate and fact based reporting urges those fanatic individuals who stood naked and unprotected to comprehend the true side of the story from the independent media ESAT. In this regard the benefits of the tour range from keeping motivated the already subscribed supporters of ESAT to convincing those who have not yet took part in supporting ESAT. Public opinion is essential and the core in the strive for democracy and thus the tour by Mr. Tamagne assists to maintain and enhance the approval rate of ESAT whilst contributing to raise the much needed funding to keep it on the air.
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