File Photo: Ethiopian Soldiers Listening to a Radio
Ethiopian Authorities Accused Of Disrupting Radio Programs
By Douglas Mpuga
Listen to Douglas's interview with Hassan Shire Shiek audio clip
16 January 2008
There are reports that Ethiopian authorities are jamming some international radio broadcasts, a charge the Ethiopian government denies. The stations allegedly affected are the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) and the Voice of America (VOA).
The chairperson of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, Hassan Shire Shiek, says the Ethiopian government has created stations to deliberately disrupt the signals of DW and VOA’s Amharic and Oromifa programs.
Shiek, who is currently in Toronto, Canada, told VOA reporter Douglas Mpuga that the Ethiopian authorities are denying the people what he called their basic right to know what is going on in their country.
He says the situation centers on the coverage of the controversial May 2005 elections, the Ogaden crisis and the Ethiopian government’s involvement in Somalia.
“The government has been cracking down on democratic forces, including legitimate voices of the Ethiopian people, such as civil society, political leaders and media houses,” he said. He added, “To deny the Ethiopian people the right to information, they (the Ethiopian government) have started targeting international broadcasters -- the only source of independent information.”
Shiek said, “Ethiopian involvement in Somalia is increasingly being questioned following the displacement of close to a million people and the highlight of grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Mogadishu. So the (Ethiopian) government has become jittery.”
But the Ethiopian government spokesperson, Zemedkun Tekle, described the allegations as baseless. Zemedkun told VOA that jamming international radio broadcasts is against [Ethiopian] government policy. “Maybe it is technical problems, but we are not aware that any broadcasts are being jammed. Those are utterly baseless allegations.”
Together, VOA’s and DW’s Amharic language broadcasts reach some 20 million listeners in Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea and hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians in the United States, Europe and other parts of Africa. VOA also broadcasts to Ethiopia in the Orofima and Tigirinyi languages.