Radio for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights 
A documentation by Dr Hansjoerg Biener
peace radio site
© PD Dr Hansjoerg Biener
created 0107, updated 0701
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Eritrea / Ethiopia Radio UNMEE
ECA Building, P.O. Box 3001, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; 
P.O. Box 5805, Asmara, Eritrea, 
information officer: bakari @

winter schedule 2007/08
09.00-10.00: 15440 (al-Dhabbaya 250 kW, 225°) Su 
10.30-11.30: 15440 (al-Dhabbaya 250 kW, 225°) Tu

The mountainous coastal region on the southwest shores of the Red Sea had been under Ethiopian, Otoman and Egyptian rule, when in 1885 Italy took control of it and named it after the Roman name for the Red Sea, Mare Erythraeum. In Second World War, British tropps captured Eritrea, which was after the war administered by the British as a UN trust territory. On 15 September 1952 Eritrea was integrated into the territory of Ethiopia. However, in the 1960's rebel groups started an independence war in Ethiopia's northernmost province.

general information on the radio system
In 1980, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front fighting for the independence from Ethiopia started the clandestine station Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea which also hosted the programmes of other opposition forces in Ethiopia. The 30 years' independence war ended in 1991, when the Mengistu regime was overthrown by a coalition of opposition movements.
After a long time of massive jamming during the independence war, the Voice of the Broad Masses became the national broadcaster in the Eritrean province. According to an earlier agreement Eritrea peacefully gained independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993.
The state broadcaster has established two channels broadcasting in nine languages of Eritrea, including Afar, Amharic, Arabic, Kunama, Tigre and Tigrigna. Both channels are broadcast on 100-kW medium and short waves from Sela'i Da'iro located on the outskirts of the state's capital Asmara.

international radio broadcasting to the region
For several years, tensions between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan have also been reflected in both countries giving airtime to international clandestine broadcasting aiming at the overthrowal of the respective governments. Even without these tensions, Eritrea and Ethiopia have a lot of international broadcasts sponsored by opposition groups. They buy airtime from private short wave stations mainly in Germany and the CIS, Eritrean groups also used airtime from Sudan. In his 2004 Clandestine Activity Survey Mathias Kropf noted a new height of activity with 18 weekly broadcasting hours to Eritrea and 13 weekly broadcasting hours to Ethiopia.
Beside the official voices of the region, there is some international broadcasting to the region. In addition to the broadcasts of many stations in Arabic, there are broadcasts in Horn of Africa languages from Deutsche Welle Germany (Amharic), Radio Cairo (Afar, Amharic) and the Voice of America (Afaan Oromoo, Amharic, Tigrigna) as well as Radio Vatican (Amharic, Tigrigna) and other Christian broadcasters. Following the closure of its Seyshelles short wave station in 2003, FEBA-Radio started buying airtime on different stations and now maintains daily half hour programmes in four out of five Horn of Africa languages. It was planned to add Christian programmes in Afar in late 2004.
On 12 September 2005, Voice of America combined its broadcasts to the Horn of Africa into a single two-hour time block, 1730-1930 UTC / 2030-2230 East Africa Time. VOA’s half-hour Afan Oromo and Tigrigna broadcasts were moved to new times. Afan Oromo now begins at 1730 UTC (8:30 p.m. East Africa Time) and Tigrigna starts at 1900 UTC (10 p.m.). In between, the Amharic broadcast expanded to one hour, from 1800-1900 UTC (9 to 10 p.m. East Africa Time), providing time for new programmes – including a Saturday listener-request music show and features aimed at millions of young listeners. All three programs moved to common frequencies on the same day: 9875, 11905 and 13870 kHz.
VOA's Horn of Africa broadcast languages are believed to reach at least two-thirds of the total population of Ethiopia, and have a significant audience in Eritrea. VOA's Horn of Africa website, which is particularly popular with the diaspora, now allows greater access to daily broadcasts and an archive of past programs. Visitors can listen and download VOA programmes at:

the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia
Despite the peaceful separation, relations deteriorated over the years and ended in military conflict along the some 900 km long border. Fighting erupted between the two nations on May 6, 1998, when Eritrea invaded territory Ethiopia considered within its national borders. Under the auspices of the Organisation of African Unity, talks were held in Algiers from 29 April to 5 May 2000 to bring about progress towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
After of heavy fighting in which up to 300,000 Eritreans fled their homes, Ethiopian troops captured much of the smaller country's prime agricultural land in a offensive in May 2000. More than 80,000 troops died in the fighting and 70,000 refugees fled to makeshift camps. Defeated by the Ethiopian offensive Eritrea agreed to a cessation of hostilities signed on 18 June 2000  in Algiers. In agreement with the parties' call upon the UN to establish a peacekeeping operation, on 31 July, Security Council Resolution 1312 established the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). Originally it was to comprise up to 100 military observers and the necessary civilian support staff, but later the council authorized the deployment of up to 4,200 troops. Information on the development of the mission can be found at
The ruling by the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission on 13 April 2002 granted all of the land contested by the two countries in a two-year war to Ethiopia. Both Eritrea and Ethiopia promised to accept the decision by the commission announced in The Hague, Netherlands. In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement welcoming the decision as "an important milestone in the peace process" and lauded the parties for their "continued and consistent reaffirmation" that the ruling was final and binding. If successful, the ruling will allow the departure of U.N. peacekeepers monitoring a 15-mile buffer zone incorporating the most disputed areas.

Radio UNMEE to be broadcast on Eritrean and Ethiopian Radio
To support the UN mission a radio programme was developed for  broadcast both on Eritrean and Ethiopian National radio as well as on demand on the internet. Radio UNMEE was planned to broadcast news about the peacekeeping mission like the exchange of prisoners of war and the demining programmes, humanitarian aid segments and messages for the reuniting of families. The contents were to be prepared mainly in English and then translated into the major languages of the region, in the case of Eritrea Tigrinya, Tigre and Arabic, in the case of Ethiopia Amharic, Afaan Oromo and Tigrinya.

Radio UNMEE on Eritrean Radio
While broadcasts on Radio Ethiopia did not materialise, the Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea gave Radio UNMEE access to its airwaves. On 16 January 2001, the Public Information Office of the UN Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia launched its broadcasts for the Horn of Africa, still hoping that the Ethiopian Government would follow the good example. The first programme was introduced by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ambassador Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, who is chief of UNMEE. Radio UNMEE’s programmes were then heard weekly on Tuesdays 13:30-14:30 h 945 7100 kHz and 14:00-15:00 h 837 7175 kHz and repeated on Wednesdays 10:00-11:00 h on all channels of Eritrean radio. The Eritrean programmes as well as the Ethiopian releases were also available on demand at

On 24 October 2001 the transmission of Radio UNMEE were suspended for undisclosed reasons. UNMEE's chief public information officer, Jean-Victor Nkolo, reported that UNMEE expressed dismay to the Eritrean Commissioner for Peacekeeping Mission and pledged continued efforts to get Radio UNMEE on the air in Ethiopia. In June 2002 Radio UNMEE resumed broadcasting via the Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea. Per UNMEE, these were to be heard every Wednesday at 07:00 h on 7100 kHz.

Radio UNMEE on international short wave
On 19 April 2002 UNMEE spokesman and chief of public information, Jean-Victor Nkolo announced weekly one-hour radio broadcasts on Tuesdays and Fridays in English, Oromifa, Amharic and Tigrinya via short wave transmitters in the United Arab Emirates and the African learning satellite channel of the WorldSpace Foundation. The UNMEE programmes currently air twice weekly on short wave via Al-Dhabbaya (United Arab Emirates) and are also audible in Europe. When still broadcasting on the 21 MHz short wave bands reception was also reported in Europe.

In early July 2003, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned the arrest of Eritrean journalist Aklilu Solomon, an Asmara-based stringer working for the Tigrigna service of the Voice of America (VOA). It brings to 18 the number of journalists currently under arrest in Eritrea. State security officers arrested Solomon on 8 July and took him to an undisclosed location. Ten days earlier, the authorities had stripped him of his press accreditation for reporting on the families of soldiers who died during Eritrea's 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia. Solomon had reported that the families were anguished over the soldiers' deaths, contradicting earlier claims by the state media that the families had celebrated when the government publicly announced the names of the dead. On World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 3 2003, CPJ named Eritrea one of the world's 10 Worst Places to be a Journalist. (© Radio Netherlands Media Network. 15 July 2003)

Last Permanent Foreign Correspondent Expelled from Eritrea
In September 2004, Jonah Fisher of the BBC Radio and Reuters, based in Asmara, left the country after his  accreditation was suddenly withdrawn. Soon after a conversation  regarding Fisher's "racist negative reporting", with the Information Minister Ali Abdu Ahmed, Fisher was informed that he needed a ministry of information permit to continue working outside Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. (
The International Federation of Journalists condemned the Eritrean government's "dictatorial" approach to press freedom, warning that free and independent journalism "faces extinction" in the country. "The international community must intervene to stop the rot," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Independent journalism faces extinction in Eritrea and the outside world must act now." (
In the annual worldwide index of press freedom published by Reporters Without Borders in October 2004, Ethiopia was listed as no. 112 of 167 countries surveyed. Eritrea was listed as no. 163 almost at the bottom of the list. No privately-owned media exist in Eritrea, where people have to rely on government-controlled media or turn to international broadcasting.

Concern over continuing imprisonment of journalist
The World Association of Newspapers has written to the Eritrean authorities to express concern at the continuing imprisonment of journalist Dawit Isaac and the government's ongoing suppression of press freedom. "According to reports, Mr Isaac, a journalist, author and playwright, has been held in jail since his arrest in September 2001 for publishing a call for democratic reforms in Setit, the newspaper he founded on his return to Eritrea in 1996 after living in exile in Sweden for nine years," said the organisation.
Further details:

Just in time for the meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in September and October 2006, Freedom House released its annual report of the world's most repressive regimes. ( Nine countries are listed as being serious violators of human rights, among them Eritrea. Freedom House says that "while these states scored slightly better than the 'worst of the worst,' they offer very limited scope for private discussion while severely suppressing opposition political activity, impeding independent organising, and censoring or punishing criticism of the state." Freedom House says it hopes the report will focus the U.N. Human Rights Council's attention on countries and territories that deserve investigation and condemnation for their widespread violations. The Council includes among its 47 members three countries profiled in "The Worst of the Worst": China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. In June 2006, the Council replaced the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which had been heavily criticised by human rights groups for allowing repressive regimes to gain influence over the monitoring body.

IPI Worried by Ethiopian Prime Minister's comments on media
The International Press Institute (IPI), a global organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of press freedom, says it's concerned at recent comments about the media by the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi. In an interview on 5 November, Zenawi told a reporter from the state-owned Ethiopian Television that elements of the local and international media were guilty of "fanning" recent violence in the capital, Addis Ababa that has led to the deaths of at least 42 people.
On the question of the international media, Zenawi said the Ethiopian government would seek to discuss the issue with their "respective governments." Zenawi's comments are thought to refer to a statement made by the new Information Minister, Berhan Hailu, who recently said that the Voice of America and Deutsche Welle radio stations were the "mouthpieces" of the CUD-opposition and were "destabilizing the peace and stability of the country." The Ethiopan opposition party Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) reportedly told its supporters to listen only to the Amharic programmes of the Voice of America and Deutsche Welle, as well as Tinsae Radio.
Responding to the ongoing crisis following bitterly contested election results in Ethiopia, IPI Director Johann P Fritz said, "While in a time of crisis the media should do their utmost to report news in a measured and calm manner, government officials should also refrain from making threatening remarks that will only exacerbate the already dangerous situation and perhaps endanger journalists' lives."
"The arrest and jailing of journalists by the authorities is also a worrying sign that the government is seeking to suppress the media's right to comment on the ongoing civil crisis. The arrests will only encourage self-censorship and, as has already happened, cause other journalists to leave the country in fear of their lives. Just as importantly, those protesting the actions of the government must also respect the rights of the media."
"Given the fact that Addis Ababa is the headquarters for the African Union, I would call on the African Union to do everything in its power to persuade the Ethiopian government to stop arresting and jailing journalists and to ensure that Ethiopia upholds its international commitments to freedom of the press and freedom of opinion," said Fritz. (Radio Netherlands Media Network 8 November 2005)

Some seven-and-a-half years after parliament passed a bill allowing private radio and television, Ethiopian authorities granted licences to two private commercial FM radio operators. The first licences were given by the state Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA) to Zami Public Connections (ZPC), and Tisae Fine Arts & Adei Promotion. The Broadcasting Authority had short-listed four individuals and companies from among 16 applicants. Main criteria were finance, technical facilities, programme standards, experience, schedules and staff training, according to Desta Tesfaye, Deputy Director of EBA.
Joint owners of the ZPC are Mimi Sebhatu, veteran radio announcer and commentator who had worked with the Amharic language service of the Voice of America (VOA), and Zerihun Teshome, general manager of the Amharic language weekly, Iftin. Owners of Tisae Fine Arts & Adei Promotion are Abebe Balcha and associates, who currently run a weekly comedy hour radio show, "Chewata", on state FM 97.1 Radio.
(Source: DPA via Radio Netherlands Media Network 11.2.2006)
Ethiopia: First independent broadcasts go on the air
Residents of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, heard their first independent radio broadcast this morning, after authorities issued licences to the East African nation's first two privately owned radio stations.
The proprietor of Zami Public Connections, Mimi Sebhatu, had been waiting for her broadcast licence for four years. The first programme she aired was a debate among representatives from the opposition. Sebhatu said that broadened access to information through radio would expedite Ethiopia's democratisation process. "It will have a big impact as a way to create diversified opinions," said the former Voice of America journalist.
The two stations - Zami Public Connections and Tinsae Fine Arts - will broadcast to Addis Ababa on FM. They were selected from a pool of 12 applicants in February. The licences were issued on the basis of the stations' financial status and programme content, according to Sissay Melese, spokesman for the Ethiopian Broadcast Authority (EBA). Television broadcasting in Ethiopia still remains a state-run entity.
"These stations will have to be operational within the next 12 months if they don't want to lose their licence," said Sissay. "Every broadcaster has the right to cover all the news in a country as far as it doesn't contribute to create violence, and as long as they abide by the law of the country." He warned that legal action would be taken against the stations if they contravened regulations.
When the regime changed in 1991, everybody was expecting that radio and television would be privatised. But 15 years later, we only have two private radio stations, and they will only cover Addis Abba, while the rest of the country will be left out." (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks - via Radio Netherlands Media Network 4. April 2006)

2007 Ethiopian jamming against foreign radio stations
There are reports that Ethiopian authorities are jamming some international radio broadcasts, a charge the Ethiopian government denies. The stations  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.

[1] UNMEE Public Information. Edited Transscript of 2 November 2001 at

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