Eritrean opposition groups are beaming television programmes into the country using technical facilities provided by the state television network in neighbouring EthiopiaThe transmissions began in late February. They are produced by the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), an umbrella of13 opposition groups in exile formed in January 2005.
The opposition broadcast calls itself “Television Dehai Eritrea“. Dehai is a Tigrinya word that can meanvoice, news or information. In Arabic, the name “Television Akbar [News] Eritrea” is used.
A spokesman for the Eritrean opposition, Mengisteab Asmerom, was reported by the Kenyan Daily Nation newspaper on 29 February as saying: “The aim of the programme is to expose the increasingly dictatorial Eritrean regime toEritreans both at home and in exile.”
The 30-minute programmes go out four nights a week in Eritrea’s two main languages – in Tigrinya on Tuesdays andThursdays, and in Arabic on Wednesdays and Fridays.
The programming mostly consists of a string of scathing commentaries on the “dictatorial” government ofEritrean President Isayas Afewerki, urging the people and opposition forces to rise up against “the shackles of adictator”.
Apart from these commentaries, and musical interludes, BBC Monitoring has not observed any other programming, such asnews bulletins.
Introducing the broadcast on 28 February, the announcer said:
“Television Dehai Eritrea is a forum that gets all nationalists to struggle against the dictatorial PFDJ[People’s Front for Democracy and Justice] regime. Television Dehai Eritrea is a forum for forces who struggle for change and democracy, and reflects the desire of the country and the people while enhancing nationalism. TelevisionDehai Eritrea is a broadcast which reflects the opinion of the people and exposes the atrocities being perpetrated bythe PFDJ regime to the world. Television Dehai Eritrea is a forum for struggle for all citizens, political forces andcivil associations that are interested in the prevalence of peace and democracy in our country.”
Scathing commentaries broadcast on 28 February
The 28 February broadcast began with a programme announcement while showing file footage of the Eritrean capital,Asmara, followed by a commentary on the current situation in the country entitled: “For how long under the shacklesof a dictator?”.
The commentary said that, after all the sacrifices they had paid, the Eritrean people had not benefited from theindependence that was achieved at the cost of the lives of many citizens. “All the atrocities that were perpetratedagainst Eritreans during the [Ethiopian] colonial time continued after independence at a worse level.”
It added: “The promise to martyrs was broken; Eritreans were exiled again and subjected to arrests, forciblemilitary service, death and human rights violations”. Eritreans were now “under slavery”, the commentary declared.
While the commentary was being read, file footage of Asmara was shown, along with that of Eritrean youths in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
The commentary said it was unthinkable that the Eritrean people would embrace the “dictatorial”administration of the PFDJ, adding that “the regime, whose downfall is inevitable, should be removed before itcaused more damage and destruction”. It then exhorted the people to “rise up in unison and liberate theEritrea that has been turned into a prison”.
There was an interlude of a love song before another commentary, entitled “A collective struggle for the revivalof Eritrea is being sought as the life of the PFDJ regime nears its end”, was broadcast.
The commentary said that, thanks to the PFDJ, the “aspirations of the Eritrean people after independenceevaporated immediately and were replaced with turmoil and unjustifiable wars”.
It said that while Eritreans awaited the construction of hospitals, schools and other development institutions, thePFDJ regime opted for a “chauvinistic strategy of building new military training camps and prisons”. It saidEritrea had not only been isolated but had also become “a country identified with the destabilization of regionalpeace”. It was thus imperative for the “abusive PFDJ regime to be removed”. It added that the removal of the regime should primarily be the responsibility of the Eritrean people themselves.
File footage of the port of Eritrean port of Massawa; heavy artillery firing on a battlefield; Asmara; Eritreans at arefugee camp in a neighbouring country; a still picture of President Isayas Afewerki; and a map of Eritrean were shownwhile the commentary was being read. This was followed by an old patriotic song.
The broadcast ended with a programme announcement and a brief statement on the objectives of broadcast, followed by arepeat of the first commentary of the day, and a love song.
Broadcasts in March
The broadcasts on 6 and 13 March were repeats of that of 28 February, with the only change being in the songsplayed.
The broadcast on 20 March began with the usual programme announcement and a brief statement on the objectives of the broadcast, followed by a commentary entitled: “It is the PFDJ’s characteristic to fault others whileconcealing its own shortcomings”.
The commentary castigated the ruling party for launching wars against neighbouring Sudan, Yemen, Djibouti andEthiopia to divert the attention of the Eritrean people in order to “prolong its clinging to power”. It saidthe PFDJ ruled by “terrorizing” the people and “violating their human and democratic rights”, while pretending to be a democratic regime that respected the rights of its people. It also accused the PFDJ of insultingother governments. It said the PFDJ “belittles” the election experiences of Ethiopia and Kenya at a time when the ruling party itself “has slammed the door to elections and multi-partyism in Eritrea“.
The commentary also accused the PFDJ of disparaging these regional countries’ relations with the West, at a timewhen Eritrea itself was isolated because of the ruling party’s “imprudent” foreign policy. The commentaryconcluded that it was time the Eritrean people told the “contemptuous” regime that “enough isenough”.
Another commentary on 20 March described the ruling party as a sinking ship which had lost direction while sailingwithout a skilled crew or a compass. It described the PFDJ as a vessel owned by a few people that had drowned itsoccupants, one after the other, over the last 17 years. It concluded by forecasting that the ship would end up in theBermuda Triangle.
The third commentary of the day was entitled “Eritrea’s revival is in the hands of its people”. Thecommentary said peace in Eritrea remained a pipe dream. National service had turned into “endless forcibleconscription” and it was Eritreans’ national obligation to seek immediate solution to the “seriousproblems” they were facing.
Unlike in previous programmes, the readers of the three commentaries on 20 March appeared on screen.
The broadcast on 27 March was a repeat of that of 20 March, with the only change noted being in the songs played.
Jamming by Eritrean authorities
Television Dehai Eritrea is transmitted via the Arabsat satellite channel of state-owned Ethiopian TV (ETV), the onlytelevision station in the country, at 10 p.m. local time (1900 gmt). The programmes are then aired via ETV’s relay transmitter in Mekele (northern Ethiopia) at 1930 gmt. Signals from this terrestrial relay might be viewable inEritrea.
An Eritrean opposition website, awate.com, said on 5 March that the Eritrean authorities were trying to jam theopposition satellite TV transmissions.
Eritrea has been targeted for some years by a variety of opposition radio broadcasts beamed into the country fromabroad, including from Ethiopia. A number of opposition websites are also active. But this is thought to be the firsttime that the Eritrean opposition has used television broadcasts.
Relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia have remained poor since they fought a border war in 1998-2000. The twocountries maintain an active media campaign against each other, including the use of hostile radio broadcasts.
Source: BBC Monitoring research Feb-Mar 08
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