Dear Negussie Mengesha (director of VOA’s Africa Division)
Dear Amanda Bennett (VOA director)
Dear Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)
First, I write you this letter to express my concern and complain about VOA Amharic program focus, target audience and structure. As you may know, in 1976, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that is currently ruling Ethiopia crafted its Greater Tigray Manifesto. TPLF claimed in its political program as a struggle against “Amhara/Amara and imperialism” and labelled the Amharas/Amaras as staunch enemies of the Tigray people. The manifesto called for transforming the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray in to an independent country through expansionist policies. For Greater Tigray to become a reality, TPLF carried out systematic ethnic cleansing against us and displaced millions of Amhara people from their ancestor land of Welkait, Tsegede, Tselemt, Setit,Tach Armachiho, Raya, Qobo and Metekel to hand over our land to Tigray ethnic members. Millions of Amhara/Amaras youths have been subjected to ethnic cleansing in different parts of Ethiopia for the last 27 years. We the Amharas best known for keeping and promoting Ethiopian unity and Ethiopian nationalism but now we are organizing our selves under Amhara nationalism umbrella in order to defend ourselves from ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The current Ethiopian politics is ethnic politics.Your Africa division Tigrigna and Oromo language programs properly serviced their main audience Tigreans and Oromos, respectively. But the Amharic program is all over the places and it doesn’t serve the main Amharic speakers of the country. I haven’t seen any Amhara guests or issues in your Tigrigna or Oromiffa program. However, in your Amharic program, you bring a lot of Tigray, Oromo and other Ethiopian nationalists; but not that much Amhara nationalist! Why? It is not fair. The main misconception in your Amharic program is that you considered Amharic as official language of Ethiopia. Your institution make this vague and wrong statements: ”VOA Amharic provides news and information to Ethiopia. Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, which has an estimated population of 85 million. According to recent surveys, VOA Amharic attracts about one-fifth of the adult population. This is one of the largest audiences proportionally of any service at VOA.”
However, your institution statement is wrong and problematic. Amharic is not the official language of Ethiopia rather it is the working language of the federal institutions in Addis Ababa. Amharic is not the language of the whole Ethiopians rather it is the language of Amhara people as Tigrigna and Oromiffa are the language of Tigreans and Oromos, respectively. So who should be your main target audience for the Amharic program? From your statement, I understand that you assumed 85 million people (currently more than 100 million) as your target audience for the Amharic program. I think the primary audience for the Amharic program should be the Amhara people who are the primary amharic speakers as the Oromos and Tigreans are the primary audiance for VOA Affan Oromo and VOA Tigregna, respectively. Other Ethiopians may speak Amharic as their second language but they should be considered as your secondary or general audiences for the Amharic program. Most of these people who speak Amharic as their second language have other VOA program options such as VOA Tigrigna and VOA Afaan Oromo. We the Amharas are the second largest ethnic groups ,if not the first, in Ethiopia and we are the primary target of attack for the regime but your Amharic program lacks the focus on Amhara people issues. We don’t have other media options and our people are heavily dependent on diaspora based medias for information since the TPLF lead regime totally shutdown free media inside the country. We appreciate your intention to provide alternative media for the oppressed nations all over the world but your Amharic program totally missed its primary audience and it does little benefits to the Amhara people Sometimes you bring guests from Pan Ethiopian elites but these elites doesn’t represent the current Amhara generations. We the young Amharas have different priority and perspective towards the current problem of our Amhara people. Otherwise, you should primarily focused on the Amhara people issue in your Amharic program. You need to add more programs on Amara people issues in your Amharic services. Your guest panelists should include more Amhara nationalists as you bring Ethiopian, Oromo and Tigrean nationalists on the Amharic program. So I would like you to review and evaluate the Amharic program primary target audience, focus and structure, in light of the current ethnic politics landscape.
My second concern and complaint is about some of the Amharic program journalists. Is there any Amhara journalist in VOA Tigrigna or VOA Afaan Oromo programs? absolutely not at all. Why Adanech Fessehaye, ethnic Tigray journalist, working in the Amharic services? Ethiopian politics is now ethnic politics and why she is there? and also why Henok SemaEgzer who is the Tplf propagandist working in the Amharic service? These two journalists are biased against Amhara. You may said that they are professionals; not at all. For instance, during last week VOA Amharic program about Qeerroo, Henok SemaEgzer clearly said that there is no apartheid style regime in Ethiopia. He clearly stated his political views in defence of the regime and it violates VOA journalistic ethics of fairness and unbiasedness. His statements should be investigated and he should be suspended immediately. Even some of the journalists are not fluent (native) Amharic speaker especially Adanech Fessehaye. As far as I know, VOA is promoting American foreign policy and I believe that the American government doesn’t have a policy to undermine Amhara people struggle.
Therefore, your Amharic program needs major reform to adjust with the new phenomena called Amhara nationalism and you need to immediately remove these TPLF surrogate propagandists such as Henok Semaegzer and Adanech Fessehaye from the Amharic program.
Haileeysus Adamu Akalu (BSc, MPH, MSc)
Amhara Human Right Activist, Researcher and Public Health Specialist