Please note: Updated information added Jan. 25, 2013 (Final version )
So what really happened? Confirmed by a reporter in Asmara:
There was never 200, 100 or 50 troops present near the Ministry of Information building. There was no tanks, or any heavy military equipment. In fact, not a single shot was fired and the incident ended peacefully. However, a handful (less than a dozen) soldiers went to the MoI to attempt to air their grievances on Eri-TV against a commanding officer belonging to their regiment. It was not a hostage situation, a mutiny or a coup of any sort. The handful of soldiers at no point threatened to harm the staff at the MoI as initially reported here and contrary to what was reported by the international media, they did not force any reporter to say anything on air. We apologize for stating it was a hostage situation and any inconvenience this may have caused. It was a mundane incident in which a handful of guys wanted to discuss on National TV about one officer in their division. This was the attempted coup hoax and mutiny story the international media ran wild with.
In a recent report with the International Business Times, an unnamed American reporter in Asmara confirmed this viewpoint:
The journalist, who has asked not to be named for fear of being forced to leave the country, described the episode as a "tempest in a teapot" and said that a widely reported bid to overthrow President Isaias Afwerki was a misinterpretation of much more banal events.
Instead of an attempted coup, the episode involved soldiers who had tried to approach the Ministry of Information building in Asmara to get grievances against their commanding officers broadcast, claimed the source.
"No shots fired, no violence whatsoever, the army played it safe and stationed a few tanks on the roads leading into the ministry but beside that there was zero army presence on the streets, not even any police activity, life went on completely normal," he added.
Even Dan Connell, who was one of the original sources of this coup hoax, has finally admitted there was never a coup attempt in Eritrea. In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Mr. Connell stated the groups' objective was never to seize power, it was to discuss an issue.
"I think we've over interpreted what happened on Monday. I don't think it was ever a coup.....I don't think they were trying to seize power. I don't think they made any demands in that direction."
Simon Tesfamariam writes a comprehensive article on how the hoax coup was started and circulated. You can read it here.
Originally posted on January 22, 2013
|A false twitter coup unleashed against Asmara by reporters.|
*Léonard Vincent started the false coup rumor (see picture below)
*Martin Plaut helped spread his rumor to every major news agency
*No coup was attempted in Eritrea
*No shots were fired in Asmara
*No Mutiny or hostage situation
How the bogus coup story began
Yesterday morning, Léonard Vincent, a longtime Eritrean critic, author, and co-owner of a Paris-based 'Eritrean opposition' radio network, tweeted in French that 100 Eritrean soldiers were staging a coup d'état in Asmara and claimed that it would be a 'long' day, presumably, for the Eritrean government.
Une centaine de soldats fait le coup de force depuis ce matin à #Asmara. La journée va être longue... erythreens.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/cou… #Erythrée
— Léonard Vincent (@leonard_vincent) January 21, 2013
Immediately following his tweet, BBC correspondent Martin Plaut, who is outspoken critic of Eritrea and an Ethiopian regime sympathizer, gave Léonard's claim attention by seeking confirmation and retweeting disinformation from an individual who didn't even live in Eritrea.
Any confirmation? @majnoon1: #ERITREA there is an attempt of coup d'etat. Armed soldiers tanks in control of Ministry of information
— Martin Plaut (@martinplaut) January 21, 2013
In order to keep the flame of disinformation alive, Martin would go on to make a series of 'unconfirmed' tweets, such as this absurd claim that said the Eritrean President was apprehended by renegades.
Some Eritrean twitter sites are reporting President Isaias is under arrest. This is NOT confirmed.
— Martin Plaut (@martinplaut) January 21, 2013
How the unfounded coup rumor gained 'legitimacy'.
Shortly afterwards, the AFP gave hollow legitimacy to Léonard's unfounded claim by adding their own spin to it. Instead of 100 renegades, the Paris-based news agency multiplied by 2 and said 200 Eritrean mutineers were attempting a coup and added stories of tanks, defections, and quotes by an Ethiopian-funded website to paint a negative and extremely distorted narrative about Eritrea for its readers.
Eritrean army tanks besieged the information ministry in central Asmara on Monday after some 200 mutineers seized the building.
Not to be outdone, the Associated Press, the Goliath of all news agencies, picked up Léonard's claims and added the president's daughter, Elsa Isaias, who works at the Ministry of Information building (known locally as Forto), was in custody by the hostage takers.
More than 100 dissident soldiers stormed the Ministry of Information in the small East African nation of Eritrea on Monday and read a statement on state TV saying the country’s 1997 constitution would be put into force, two Eritrea experts said.
The soldiers held all of the ministry workers — including the daughter of the president — in a single room, said Leonard Vincent, author of the book “The Eritreans” and co-founder of a Paris-based Eritrean radio station.
The AP goes on to interview Martin, a man who has never set foot inside Eritrea, to describe a situation he admittedly had no knowledge of. Despite this fact, Martin, along with Léonard, were dubbed as the "Eritrea experts" by the AP.
More concerning, however, was how both of them ignored tweets by Eritreans living in Asmara, who said no coup had taken place in Eritrea. Instead of engaging with these Eritreans who knew the reality of the situation better than anyone, they conveniently dismissed them and continued to sell their sensational story of a coup that never was.
Rahel Weldeab, an Eritrean who moved from San Diego, California to Asmara a few years back, wrote this about the coup hoax:
Ppl in #Asmara are going about their daily lives while "experts on the #Horn" cry coup. I live right near the airport. NOTHING IS HAPPENING
— Rahel Weldeab (@RahelWeldeab) January 21, 2013
Similarly, Semere H., a young entrepreneur who moved to Asmara from New York over a year ago, had this to say:
Coup in #Eritrea? I'm in #Asmara right now and I don't see '100 soldiers surrounding the Ministry of Information'. I guess lying is news now
— Semere H. (@Semere241) January 21, 2013
A number of Eritreans who phoned their loved ones received similar information, too. They tweeted that no coup attempt took place and the city was calm and normal, despite the media hyping up a coup story.
My mom just called eritrea and they said everything is ok, it's crazy what the media can make people think. #Eritrea #blessed
— A$AP Abele (@bigdaddytekle) January 22, 2013
From a friend in Asmara, walking by MoI: there is absolutely nothing unusual; and people are calm, business as usual #eritrea
— YPFDJ-NA (@YPFDJNA) January 21, 2013
From family and friends in Asmara: no tanks, no police, just the usual bored guards at the presidential office... #Eritrea is at peace
— YPFDJ-NA (@YPFDJNA) January 21, 2013
I just noticed almost all tweets tht says coup in #Eritrea w/ no Confirmation R sources frm outside VS #Asmara is calm -from ppl on Z ground
— Rediet(@RediTweets) January 21, 2013
Called in Asmara, everything seems fine there. Electricity is working, no tanks and no soldiers going around the city. #eritrea
— Yasmin Nasrudin (@ynasrudin269) January 21, 2013
So why did Martin and Léonard break journalistic norms by ignoring the numerous credible tweets from Eritreans living in Asmara that said there was no coup? Sirak Bahlbi from Sweden seems to have the most rational answer for this:
Martin Plaut & Dan Connelattempting to destabiliseEritrea fueling a virtual coup d’état in the vain attempt to kick-start a real Coup
— Sirak Bahlbi (@SirakBahlbi) January 21, 2013
In response to Martin and other western journalists ignoring her reliable claims, tekereb tweeted:
Had I confirmed YOUR #halfbaked story re #Eritrea I wdv been labeled a *drum rolls* "revolutionary" fighting for "freedom", yeah? Sigh!
— tekereb anelim(@tekerebanelim) January 21, 2013
Fed up by the politically-motivated disinformation Martin and Leonard were spreading, Filmon Zerai, an Eritrean activist living in the United States, suggested an investigation should be launched for their abuse of journalistic ethics.
Both @martinplaut and @leonard_vincent should be investigated for abuse of the ideals of journalism and ethics in regards to #Eritrea
— Filmon Zerai(@EritreaStruggle) January 21, 2013
By this point, it was becoming apparent to most rational people that the fictional coup story was a farce and journalists who invested their reputations and egos were hastily trying to repackage the coup that never was as the coup that 'failed'. Asmarinos, who are known for their sense of humor, began to poke fun at these sloppy journalists for their false reporting.
In response to their bogus claims of tanks being on the streets of Asmara, Tekereb wrote:
On phone w/@rahelweldeab! She was here (Sembel) 30mins ago & is now at work (downtown)! She goes: I didnt trip over a tank on my way! LOL!
— tekereb anelim(@tekerebanelim) January 22, 2013
After one American tweeted he was doubting this 'coup' story, Semere, who lives not too far from the MoI building, jokingly tweeted back the following conversation:
|Martin Plaut could be facing legal action for his Eritrea coup hoax|
|Leonard Vincent, a French 'Eritrean opposition' member|
and the man behind the Eritrea coup hoax.