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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

In Support of VOA’s Amharic Program (a voice to the voiceless)

We the undersigned Ethiopians, Ethio-Americans and friends of Ethiopia who are concerned and disturbed by the Ethiopian government’s deliberate attempt to shut down all free press and journalistic activities, here by, alert the US Broadcasting Board of Governors of the government’s recent attempts to discredit and disrupt free media not only in Ethiopia but also here in the United States of America.

The Voice of America (VOA) is an international multimedia broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. It is paid by American tax dollars to render service strictly to foreign audience. VOA is an extension of US foreign policy and a means to extend democratic influence and American values to the rest of the world.

The Amharic service of the VOA has been on air since 1982 and has been serving the people of Ethiopia in various educational, entertainment and current affairs programs. In the past two decades, the VOA Amharic program has been the only source of unbiased, relevant news for Ethiopians around the globe. It is exemplary in its professional exercise of journalism and its inclusion of diverse voices.

At this very moment, in Ethiopia, there is not a single newspaper, television or radio station that is not owned by the government. In a move that rivals the Marxist government of Mengistu Hailemariam (former military leader of Ethiopia), the current leader Meles Zenawi has jailed almost all members of the free press. Those who were not arrested are in hiding or are currently seeking asylum in a foreign country.

According to the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists), the Ethiopian government is involved in a heavy-handed attempt to intimidate the independent press and to suppress news of the protests and deaths in Addis Ababa. It further states that the Security forces are detaining not only the family members of the journalists that are in hiding but also the medical workers that gave information about the casualties of the recent protests.

We believe that VOA Amharic, at its core, shares one of the founding principles of the United States of America, freedom of expression. It is for this reason VOA Amharic has come to be a threat and an enemy of the Meles Zenawi Regime.

We urge the US Broadcasting Board of Governors to encourage the spread of democracy in Africa by supporting VOA (Amharic) and by standing firm against all Ethiopian government backed demands to disrupt or discontinue the single remaining, democratic media outlet for Ethiopians.

We thank you for your time, and look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Yonnas Gondemo