Opposition Radio: Anybody Listening in Eritrea?

By IndepthAfrica
In Djibouti
Jan 9th, 2014
1 Comment
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Opposition Radio: Anybody Listening in Eritrea?

Eritrea’s geographical location and particularly its altitude was a unique place for good reception of radio transmissions from all over the world, long before the satellite technology made its emergence. Michela Wrong once described the Hamasien plateau in Eritrea as a Babel tower in which place the United States located its radar based listening devices. If willing, the Eritrean public can therefore easily tune in to any radio stations ignoring the irregular broadcasting from the diaspora, the occasional jamming from the regime, and the infrequent power outages. The radio, according to some Eritreans, will be by far more effective to reach the large majority of Eritreans in both inside and outside the country than the internet medium, given the low level of reading habits. Nonetheless, its role will stay restricted. It will only serve as a “crutch” among other weapons of resistance; its critical role, as invariably witnessed in history, will be during a serious rebellion or military conflict. These have not yet manifested in Eritrea.

The thing is, however, does the public take advantage of this exceptional characteristic of the land and loyally listen to it. Nobody seems to have a clue for lack of any methodology to find out the percentage of people who regularly or intermittently follow the broadcasts. Likewise, nobody knows the efficacy of the radio transmissions made by Weldeab Woldemariam from Cairo, Egypt, in the mid-60s or the importance of the EPLF’s Voice of the Masses. Though there is no research available about the subject matter, some of the Eritrean nationalists never forget to mention the affair. The solution to our contemporary puzzle is probably not expensive and complex.

Thousands of Eritreans, particularly the parents of Eritreans in the diaspora, travel back and forth to the West, and many of them are either citizens of the countries such as the United States and the European Union or carry some type of residence permit. This demographic group lives for a year or more in the place of visit and returns back to Eritrea on a regular basis, taking advantage of the monetary help and health services of the host countries and returns to his/her place of origin when the climate is intolerable. During its stay abroad, it has plenty of time in its hands. The lesson from the past is useful.

The experience of the “sovereign” stations such as the Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the Voice of Liberty and Radio Free Europe, which are described as “substitute” is a telling example. [1]Denied an easy access to talk with the ordinary communist subjects during the Cold War period, the entities devised a method of asking people who travel to the West. The people may be of the elite sort closely or loosely affiliated with the communist regimes, and may not be without bias. The travelers from Eritrea in comparison are more variegated and heterogeneous, and therefore good material to study. Radio Erena, Radio Asena, Radio Forum (Medrek), and the recently re-activated Radio Delina must do a reflection and conduct a survey. Scarce resources available as there are, these diaspora entities should pause and soberly look at their situations. If they do, the diaspora radio mediums may discover some truth not very palatable.

North Korea is often compared to Eritrea for its political repression, human rights violation and economic disarray that keeps its masses poor and in complete despair, and it is rightly so. One wonders, however, why all the radio transmissions beamed to North Korea that have been supported by South Korea and the rest of the Western world for decades have not aroused the people into some sort of civil disturbance. The countries are rich and powerful and resource had never been a problem. What is “preventing” then the radio programs on freedom and civil liberties as practiced in the democracies from reaching the targeted audience? Clearly, the rogue Korea is different in some sense from Eritrea. Its military industry though crude is by far more developed than the one Eritrea aspires to have. For instance, it has the capacity to reconfigure the TV stations for only viewing the state propaganda. Short wave radios may also be in the same category. Are these formidable technical troubles “stopping” the people in the communist country from internalizing the values of the liberal world and fight the tyranny in their land? What is the thing that made them prostrate?

If a society had never had any “values” in its culture to begin with or has completely lost it along the road, argues an expert, the efficacy of liberal radio transmissions is not certain. [2] He compares the experience of Poland during the Solidarnosc period, (which had some traces of liberal values with some of the countries in Eastern Europe and the people in the Soviet Union.) The values left over from its “first republic” era were not completely extinguished despite the effort of the communist authorities, helping the trade unions and the Catholic Church to launch a powerful non-violent resistance. The values gave Poland a head start in contrast to some of the rest of the Eastern European countries, which had to wait for Perestroika. [3] North Korea, however, is an extreme example; it has remained in the grips of a “communist” dynasty for seventy years following a brutal Japanese colonization.

Its look-alike Eritrea falls in the same category regardless of the protestations of the nationalists who attribute the Federal experience for the existence of some kind of democracy. The gedli era was even worse; it was blight and a period of darkness. If culture does not explain the prevailing conditions in North Korea and Eritrea, what other situations inform us? Despair and complete defeat are not rare in human history, necessitating the intervention of outside powers. Radio transmissions alone without a public with the bare minimum of existence, and dignity and little patience or energy to listen has little usefulness; more importantly, radio transmissions without other critical junctures will be as the saying goes, like “preaching to the believers” regardless of the content of the material. (This writer is often amused about the validity of the program on the “mismanagement of the Eritrean Airlines”; addressed in the opposition radios, which has little to do with the wretched life of the masses in Eritrea.)

Rationing and long lines are the daily experience of the average subjects in totalitarian systems, leaving them little time do any sober thinking. They are reluctant to invest any time or risk themselves to it. In extra-ordinary times, however, such as a successful coup or a sustained military siege, the public recovers from its coma-like existence and lends its ears to any information available. The Eritrean masses during the long gedli sojourn probably did not listen to the Voice of the Masses until the last few years of the EPLF military advance, and that was not largely for the utopia promised in the waves but the anxiety for their long lost children.

The major flaw of the opposition radio in the diaspora is neither in the limits of money needed to run the radio slot times nor in the technology nor in the jamming of the waves by the regime in Eritrea, but rather in the material itself. Imagine a group of formerly disaffected communists running Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty during the Cold War and are given free rein to only criticize the communist system in power without touching the communist ideology itself. Would the public have listened to them? A program run by communists who run from a communist regime would not have made sense to the masses under the Iron Curtain.

In the same manner, the programs beamed into Eritrea are from nationalists, who relentlessly repeat the “betrayal” of the “glorious” journey of the gedli or its “values” leaving no other interpretations for the listener at home in Eritrea. Reconsidering the gedli journey or the road to “freedom” has been in earnest progress in the cyber world, but the airwaves have so far showed a complete reluctance.

We may know little about crisis of the diaspora radio transmissions until the proposed survey is made, but omitting the ghedli construct is certainly a major component that radio programs should pay attention to, if they have any respect for their audience.

References

[1] Semelin, Jacques. Communication and Resistance. The Instrumental Role of Western Radio Stations in Opening up of Eastern Europe, The French Journal of Communication Volume 2, Issue 1, 1994, pp.55-69.

[2]Ibid.

[3]Ibid.

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  • selamawit

    the eritrean dictator iseyas afeworki keeps co-workers who systematically press money from eritrean in diaspora and who try to undercut free speech – this is a open secret.
    We, the eriterans in diaspora ar eno longer willing to suffer from this!

    WHAT WE CAN DO IN DIASPORA
    1. if you know a member of the criminal regime, check out where he or she works.
    especially if the employer is a public agency, inform the employer about the criminal labor of the person. same thing with people working in the education (also private) sector.
    many of them work AS “VOLUNTARY ASSISTANCE” AND BLOWBEAT new REFUGEES in diaspora!

    2. if you see a group of the CRIMINAL REGIME MEBERS RUNNING A CLUB/association (pretending it was beneficial) to collect money which at the end is fundrsing for jailing, killing, torturing eritrean people,
    stop it: anounce to your local officers, that this is not beneficial but anti-democratic, evasion of tax and criminal!
    3. if you see members of the criminal regime CHEATING REAL BENEFICIAL CLUBS /association (e.g. clubs of people who want to help people in the 3rd word), write a letter to every important instance (copy) for this club and alert them of the criminal intensions! otherwise they will steal the money which was meant for humanity issues!

    4. if a CRIMINAL MEBERS OF TH „EMBASSY“ wants you, your mother/father or whoever to pay the 2% „tax“, announce it to the police – otherwise you could even be charged for cooperating with criminals. (don’t forget the exact name of the person.)

    5. if your familymembers/friends are rushed or browbeaten to join the labor of the criminal regime in anyway – e.g. by participating in clubs, paying money – annouce it to the police. don’t forget the exact name and address of the person!

    6. if you see a high profil of the propaganda worker of the criminal regime in online comunity like forums, don’t let them speak alone: give voice to the voiceless, don’t let them distrubte their evel messages full of lies.

    7. if you see an FAMOUS PERSON working „backstage plan“ for the criminal regime, announce it to the newspaper. the readers have the right to know the truth.
    It is our judical and ethical duty to protect the democracy which protects us by prohibit the labor of iseyas and his gang in diaspora!!!

    YOU CAN DO ALL THESE ANONYMOUSLY IF YOU WANT.

    e.g. write digital letter, print it multiple and send it to several liable instances.
    Or simply write an email. you can shortly mention why who prefer to write anonymously !
    check the net for adresses an contact persons – don’t worry, everybody will see!
    the gang of eritrean dictator iseyas keeps co-workers who
    systematically press money and try to undercut free speech for eritreans in diaspora.

    WHAT WE CAN DO IN DIASPORA

    1. if you know a member of the criminal regime, check out where he
    or she works.

    especially if the employer is a public agency, inform the employer
    about the criminal labor of the person. same thing with people
    working in the education (also private) sector.

    many of them work AS “VOLUNTARY ASSISTANCE” AND BLOWBEAT
    new REFUGEES in diaspora!

    2. if you see a group of the CRIMINAL REGIME MEmBERS RUNNING A
    CLUB/association (pretending it was beneficial) to collect money
    which at the end is fundraising for jailing, killing, torturing
    eritrean people,

    stop it: announce to your local officers, that this is not
    beneficial but anti-democratic, evasion of tax and criminal!

    3. if you see members of the criminal regime CHEATING REAL
    BENEFICIAL CLUBS /association (e.g. clubs of people who want to help
    people in the 3rd word), write a letter to every important instance
    (copy) for this club and alert them of the criminal intentions!
    otherwise they will steal the money which was meant for humanity
    issues!

    4. if a CRIMINAL MEMBERS OF TH „EMBASSY“ wants you, your
    mother/father or whoever to pay the 2% „tax“, announce it to the
    police – otherwise you could even be charged for cooperating with
    criminals. (don’t forget the exact name of the person.)

    5. if your family members/friends are rushed or browbeaten to join
    the labor of the criminal regime in anyway – e.g. by participating
    in clubs, paying money – announce it to the police. don’t forget
    the exact name and address of the person!

    6. if you see a high profil of the propaganda worker of the
    criminal regime in online community like forums, don’t let them
    speak alone: give voice to the voiceless, don’t let them distribute
    their evil messages full of lies.

    7. if you see an FAMOUS PERSON working „backstage plan“ for
    the criminal regime, announce it to the newspaper. the readers have
    the right to know the truth.

    It is our judicial and ethical duty to protect the democracy which
    protects us by prohibit the labor of iseyas and his gang in
    diaspora!!!

    YOU CAN DO ALL THESE ANONYMOUSLY IF YOU WANT.

    e.g. write digital letter, print it multiple and send it to
    several liable instances.

    Or simply write an email. you can shortly mention why who prefer to write anonymously – don’t worry,
    everybody will see! !

    check the net for adresses an contact persons.