BBG Watch — As the trial of two Swedish journalists gets underway in Ethiopia, it is worth remembering that a Voice of America journalist David Arnold was dismissed from his position and other VOA journalists had their reports censored after the Ethiopian regime had complained about their work to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a U.S. Federal agency which manages VOA. The largest anti-censorship demonstration in the Voice of America’s history produced some relief for VOA journalists from the pressures from the executive staff, but VOA reporters continue to struggle against the unfriendly BBG management in a number of areas. In an rare move for a member of the BBG, Ambassador Victor Ashe had recently publically raised the issue of poor employee morale at the Voice of America, although he did not address censorship or programming questions.
Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) announced that the media freedom NGO will pay close attention to the trial of Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson , which is due to begin in Addis Ababa. Arrested on 1 July after illegally entering the southeastern Ogaden region from Somalia, they are charged with terrorist activities and violating Ethiopia’s immigration laws.
BBG Watch –Several years ago, the Ethiopian regime charged in absentia Voice of America Horn of Africa Service journalists working in Washington with treason and threatened them with the death penalty. These charges were later dropped after protests from the State Department and human rights organizations. Yet despite this earlier move against VOA journalists by the Ethiopian regime, three BBG members — Michael Meehan, Susan McCue, and Dana Perino — had decided to go to Ethiopia earlier this year to negotiate placement of VOA health programs on the regime-controlled local radio networks. They also discussed media freedom issues with the Ethiopian officials, apparently without any success. The Ethiopian American media reported that the BBG members were given a list of names of dissidents and other human rights activists whose participation in VOA programs the regime views as objectionable.
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) –
If you pass by Kronoberg Prison in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, you will see journalists chained to its gates. They have committed no crime. For over a week, journalists have taken turns locking themselves up in front of the prison to raise awareness of the imprisonment of three colleagues held in the Horn of Africa.
BBG Watch — Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member Michael P. Meehan said at the BBG open meeting on September 15 that he had nothing to do with censoring of Voice of America news broadcasts to Ethiopia after his talks with the Ethiopian regime officials. Referring apparently to the two other BBG members who went with him on the trip, Dana Perino and Susan McCue, Meehan said that “we were disturbed by some activity” (presumably, VOA news reporting) that followed the BBG negotiations with the repressive regime in Ethiopia, but he implied that any actions that were taken, including the subsequent removal of the Voice of America Horn of Africa service chief, were taken by the VOA management. He described these actions as “appropriate.”
Link to YouTube video.
Link to BBG Watch report BBG’s Michael Meehan: charges of censorship against me are unfair
BBG Watch — Press freedom advocates and Ethiopian Americans are declaring a partial victory in their fight with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a U.S. government agency, over the censorship of the Voice of America radio programs to Ethiopia. They credit massive protests and a demonstration held Monday in front of the BBG and VOA headquarters in Washington, DC with getting a senior Voice of America official to tell the journalists working for the Horn of Africa VOA Service “to continue their work without any restrictions or self-censorship,” the Ethiopian American news website Addis Voice reported.
David Arnold, however, has not been returned to his old job as the VOA Horn of Africa Service chief.
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Swedish journalists on trial in Ethiopia — Voice of America journalists already penalized