Minnesota: Eritreans Challenge Loyalists Monopoly Of Public Radio
Eritreans in Minnesota have persuaded the management of KFAI, a public radio station, that the air-time it provides Eritreans has been abused by loyalists to the Eritrean regime.
Thus ends a 15-year monopoly enjoyed by Eritrea’s ruling party, PFDJ, in Minnesota.
The one-hour Tigrinya program was initially given to the Eritrean community but fell under the monopoly of supporters of the regime who used it to disseminate the regime’s views, often sourcing the Eritrean state media.
This is not unique to Minnesota: public radio stations throughout the United States serve the interests of Eritrea’s dictatorship because the management of the radio stations have no knowledge to what extent the Eritrean government has infiltrated and co-opted the “community centers.”
Representatives of the Eritrean National Conference for Democratic Change (ENCDC) along with the Eritrean Forum approached the stations Board of Directors to complain that their station had become a propaganda outlet of the Eritrean regime.
Reached by telephone, Mohammed Idris Mjwaray, an ENCDC representative, told Gedab News: “We will continue our efforts until we either snatch the airtime from their hands or until they abide by the principles of the radio station which strives to allow the presentation of diverse viewpoints.”
The event came to public attention after the Tigrinya host of the KFAI provided radio program refused to air a report about the ENCDC congress that was held in Hawassa, Ethiopia in November of 2011. The program presenter, a PFDJ supporter, refused to read the report stating that the ENCDC aims at overthrowing the Eritrean regime.
On March 17, 2012, Ms Janis Lane Ewart, the executive director of the station, met with representatives of both parties and concluded that the situation cannot continue in that manner and that the presenter had violated the principles of the radio station.
The supporters of the regime defended their position stating that they have the responsibility of protecting their community, which they believed will be exposed to disunity if the opposition to the regime, who they claimed are Ethiopian, are allowed to air their view.
According to our sources, Ms Ewart informed the presenter that he should refrain from expressing a patronizing view to the public and should let the community make its own judgment. She informed the Eritrean regime supporters that if they persist, she will be forced to stop the program. In the meantime, she will ask two members of the community to record and monitor the program for a specific period.
Subsequently, Mr. Mjawray was interviewed by KFAI’s English program where he explained the plight of Eritrean refugees suffering in the borders of neighboring countries and in the Sinai desert of Egypt, news pieces that never air in the Tigrinya program of KFAI, apparently to “protect” the community from “disunity.”
Furthermore, ENCDC members have made significant strides in informing a state senator about the plight of Eritrean refugees in Sinai and solicit his intervention.