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Voice of America (VOA) With-in the Eritrean Context

Voice of America - Credit: James P. Hawkins

Voice of America (VOA) With-in the Eritrean  Context                                                        

Amanuel Biedemariam

When listening to the Voice of America (VOA) Tigrigna one must ask why is there a need for such a program. What are the reasons that the US spends tremendous resources on broadcasters, technical experts, directors, editors and on expensive equipments to reach Eritrea? What does the US gain from broadcasting in Tigrigna into Eritrea? Why not Tigre or Bilen? How does that benefit or hurt Eritrea? What are the missions and purposes of the VOA?  These types of questions are what every Eritrean must ask when consuming information provided by outlets like Deutsche-Welle, BBC and in this case, the VOA.

The VOA is founded to distribute information and news from American perspective in pursuit of US interests. The VOA is an extension of the State Department public diplomacy efforts in pursuit of US policies and agendas regardless of how the mission statements are worded and, regardless of the values they claim to espouse.

Recently introduced bill by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, co-sponsored by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), with overwhelming support of both houses intends to change the mission statement of VOA to, “Support U.S. public diplomacy efforts.”

The bill intends to change the governance structure and the status of the “reporters” to “agents” that forward US agendas and do away with traditional reporting. The VOA has many branches like the Radio Free Europe. Under the legislation, the VOA would be reorganized into a single organization called, “The Freedom News Network.”

New information and news competition from Russia’s RT News, CCTV and others is used as a pretext to change the mission. Critiques of the bill are decrying the new approach as un-American because it changes the VOA into a propaganda outlet. It also turns the VOA journalists to propaganda agents doing-away with traditional reporting altogether.

How will these changes affect the broadcasting and approach into Eritrea?

The US State Department’s position on Eritrea and the overall US Eritrean policies have been consistently hostile. As branch of the State Department the VOA propagated US policies. Hence, whatever changes US congress makes the agenda will not change.

The question thence, if the VOA is a branch of the State Department that pursues hostile policies how will the new bill influence the Tigrigna broadcast into Eritrea? What will the Tigrigna broadcast look like in the future? How has it traditionally broadcasted into Eritrea etc…?

To get some basic understanding or perspective one needs to look at the way the VOA Tigrigna is structured, how it is funded, the message it consistently sends, the issues that it tries to tackle, the personalities-interviewed and the make-up of the hosts etc…

The Hosts

The VOA is made up of Tigrigna speaking “reporters” from Eritrea and Ethiopia. One can argue that it is a perfect way to ensure neutrality since there is appearance of balance. However, the issues discussed are overwhelmingly Eritrean. The focus of the VOA is Eritrea. What that means then is that the VOA accords ownership and platform of Eritrean issues to anyone even those that are avowed enemies. The new bill will give VOA cart-blanch to magnify the propaganda to the highest level possible.

The Guests

Who are the invited guests, what are their interests, what is the criterion used to qualify the guests etc…? These are key questions that can lead to answers into the agendas, objectives of the messages and results thought by the US. And based on information the VOA provided in the past; based on guests interviewed and, based on the history of US Eritrea relations it is rather easy to conclude what the intended objectives are.    

The VOA Tigrigna is a medium that intends to disseminate US interest based news. However, the broadcasting is done by Tigrigna speaking broadcasters and the guests are almost entirely Tigrigna speaking. It is a rarity for American officials or non-naturalized nationals to interview with VOA to address Eritrea related matters. The last time that happened was when the VOA interviewed three diplomats that advocated for the warming of relations between Eritrea and US.

The daily news VOA provides is limited, nominal, not-far-reaching or extensive. The focus of the programming is talk-programs that aim to live amidst Eritrea-specific controversies. Furthermore, most of the guests that they bring have limited or no constituency in Eritrea or within Diaspora Eritrea.

Yet, the issues that these minority groups raise are presented as main issues and as if they have following. This is done to undermine Eritrea’s priorities. They do this by coupling guests that have mainstream credibility and pair them with those that have limited constituency, (sometimes Tigrayans) with negative views of Eritrea. The VOA elevates the issues The State Departments advocates through the fringe elements and gives it platform that it cannot get elsewhere.

After the programming airs reactions are encouraged and these reactions are recorded on voice mail. The VOA then selects specific comments; edits them to focus on the agendas-thought and, accords both sides equal time when aired on subsequent programming. In this arrangement the VOA controls the message while the participants relinquish control of their voices in a lopsided process that only favors the VOA.

In the Diaspora, Eritreans know how the VOA operates, its intentions and they know exactly what these fringe elements are up-to. But for those that are not aware, the messages could be misleading and lead to some misadventures as seen in parts of the world. In many countries the VOA is banned specifically for these reasons.

While in Asmara, on March of 2013, the VOA aired a program that featured a Tigrayan priest and excommunicated Eritrean ex-priest from Medhine Alem Tewahdo Church Washington DC to talk about new Eritrean refugees in the US. The VOA presented them as men of faith concerned about Eritreans. The ex-priest happens to be a staunch anti-Eritrean that runs a politically charged controversial and incendiary weekly radio program from DC.

To the listeners in Eritrea his responses could appear humanitarian and genuinely concerned about the individuals he claims to be helping. However, he was advertising; if you come here I will help you. In other words encourage youth flight. These are the kinds of subtle, subliminal and sometimes direct messages the VOA induces on the psych of Eritreans. The messages of the ex-priest are consistent with US State Department’s agenda that focuses on the Eritrean youth.

By interviewing the excommunicated priest the VOA undermined the Orthodox Church in Eritrea and disrespected Eritreans in the Diaspora that base their faith in accordance with the synod of the Orthodox Church in Eritrea. One can look at issue after issue but the methodology the VOA applies is consistent no matter the subject. It is to try to light fire wherever possible.

Moving Forward

In the West, the iron-dome of information has proved to be impenetrable. It is designed in a way that forwards messages based on agendas and outcomes the West desires. The notion of free-press, freedom of expression is farcical. It exists only within outlined parameters.

Eritreans have seen and experienced a lot about local and national news networks that ignored their cry for coverage when they pleaded for justice against unfair US Eritrea policies that attempted to undermine the very existence of their nation. However, when 10 anti-Eritrean elements demonstrate they are advertised as if the entire nation is demonstrating.

Fortunately, the internet is providing alternative information sources. It also appears the world is looking for additional sources of information. Unfortunately, these are state based news sources looking to do the same thing that Western news sources have done for decades.

However, the availability of competing information sources is providing alternative and diverse perspectives thus nullifying previously western-dominated news that always attempted to frame issues from their perspective.

If there is one thing Africans can learn from the new information sources like RT is to see and apply some of the methodologies that they use to combat western based propaganda; learn how to defuse it; forward their own-agendas to benefit their people, enhance and promote their images.

That means considerable resources must be dedicated into developing the infrastructures and human resources capacities in order to compete in this global war of information. It is of utmost importance for Africans to understand that and increase their efforts to combat outside sources of information that are designed to program them into perpetual enslavement.

It also means understanding and outing the indigenous-agents that these news sources use, the institutions that fund them and, deny these agents access because they are always going to work for the agendas of the foreign agents because there exists no news organization that is designed to serve on the interests of Africa.

What is Current US Policy on Eritrea?

Unless US change its Eritrea policy, information that the VOA disseminate into Eritrea will reflect the policy. Unfortunately, these hostilities are continuing with no end in sight. The US Africa Summit to be held on August 5-6 in Washington DC is meant to foster the future partnership between US and African nations. Self-reliant Africa is what the current administration believes that Africa needs. However, the leaders this administration invited are not capable to comprehend self-reliance let alone apply it when their budgets are entirely dependent on foreign assistance.

To the contrary the people and government of Eritrea have been saying, “Self Reliance, partnership based on respect to sovereignty and self-determination” which Washington finds unacceptable. As a result, Eritrea which should be the best ally the US could have is shunned from the summit. This is a display of unprovoked hostility towards the people and the government of Eritrea.

If partnership is what Washington seeks the people of Eritrea should have been represented. If self-reliance in Africa is what Washington’s targeted-outcome; Eritrea should have been touted as example and hope. Instead, every strategy on the books is applied to deny Eritrea her human and material resources. The VOA will always reflect the policy.

“Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions…” President Barack Obama, in 2009, Ghana.

Wining and dining beggars and strongmen will not forward partnership or self reliance.


This summit is a perfect reminder of what to expect .The can-do Eritrean people must always understand the base from which information emanate and exercise tremendous caution when consuming information from any outlet be it VOA or BBC. It is a historic fact that Eritrea’s resilience and self reliance is what brought about Dimitsi-Hafash that sustained them through tough time. That is history worth nurturing at the highest of levels!

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Voice of America (VOA) With-in the Eritrean Context Reviewed by Admin on 12:00 AM Rating: 5


  1. Well said brother! I always ask myself why is US not commensurate with us? Isn't being genuine good for everyone? When I see the world news and the killings it makes me scared. I wish to see balanced and respect among nations.

  2. Dear Emma,
    I want to ask u a simple questions. Why did you prefer to talk about VOA now? VOA has a life span of more that 20 years , what is new now? Is there any policy change within the VOA towards Eritrea?
    With all respect please answer my questions as i couldn't trace the answers in your article.

  3. pls amend that by than.

  4. the conflict among the eritrean army is becoming harsh.There was a fight among thesouthern eritrean army as reported from dekemehari.eritrea is already on the verge of electric city,no water,criminalism allover the country.Some generals are becoming openly opposing the dictator.
    Abraham Isayas afeworki has bought a factory in north korea recently.Isayas has already understood that eritreay will collapse soon.
    yemane monkey and Isayas already prepared an exit plan.

  5. Dear brother i have several points of views in your article, but for the time being these are what are concerned me first and best.
    1. I, to some extend agree with you on the US policy/ies on PFDJ/PIA government, but I have reservation on what the PFDJ/PIA government's policy on the US. Of course I comprehend that the PFDJ/PIA government doesn't even have democratic policy to his own people; anyway what is your say on the PFDJ/PIA government policy to the US government?

    2. I am pro self reliance. I support self-reliance in its genuine ways. However, I have some differences in the way the PFDJ/PIA government is practicing it; because in brief, I believe self-reliance as an open platform that embrace or enfold both the government and the people under the constitutional democratic program. So do how do you understand the PFDJ/PIA government self -reliance disassociated or lone wolf policy?

  6. Rahwa Tesfai GhermaiAugust 3, 2014 at 6:09 AM

    How abt between ppls of one region/nation, isn't that important too?

    Or should we just close our eyes to the killings, block

    our ears from the truth and button up our lips while our own

    ppl disappear into exile/prisons/dungeons?

    Never have I seen or heard of the kind of horrors which occur

    in Eritrea in the 21st century.

  7. did you hear this on VOA too??/

  8. Wey hateftef ! Aye akli tsibet ! Ato Amanuel, your article is simply a cascade of mumbo jumbo of frustration.

  9. Boku
    If I knew the answer, there is no reason to question. If u have some good answer, please.

  10. Rahwa Tesfai GhermaiAugust 3, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    Don't let them go ANYWHERE. No pocket money for flying

    off to retire in Doha. IRAIRO for the lot of them, explain

    @Hillal's tweets made some 17hrs ago abt 'Ugum' circles

    pls? These thieves have been culling off our youth. leaders

    and true heroes since meda only to steal the profits from resources

    we're all watching them steal as we speak.

    I demand JUSTICE.

    Amanuel Biedemariam, Qetlet hezbay biede Mariam diyu?

  11. Asmayt, Do you mean that if the author hasn't said any thing in the last 20 years, he shouldn't say any thing now? A lot have have said about VOA (and all western medias in general) in Eritrean mass media all the time unless don't collect or you were sleeping all the time.

    Please re-read paragraph 3 and 4 for your question 'is there a policy change within the VOA towards Eritrea?'.

  12. What is the relevance of your comment here. Be a grown up and mature. Talk relevant. It is good for you.

  13. TDR
    It could be nice if u write using ur real identity, Anyway, I read ur recommended paragraphs but nothing is being mentioned on Eritrea.
    Is it the Western media or ur regimes mass media is talking day and night about . The situation of the government that u support if we have the moral value to consider it as a government is becoming unavoidable. So NWEDN KEY HAMYAS NSEYTI WEDEN, KOYNU NEGERKUM. Thanks to Tewelde and the likes, the situation of our country was not covered by VOA to the level.. Try to understand the objective condition of our beloved country, don't be biased. To answer ur question i had never slept and will not sleep unless the situation of my country is changed.

  14. just got back from Dekemhare,Afelba,Seghnaytee,Adi Keyhea all the way to the border,and all IOOK GOOD,and every one is involved building the nation,unlike you lazy free loader. You risk every thing you had including your sanity to get to the promised land, now what you had in mind,is't there,you turn around to blame GOE for your stupid decision .Get lost and seek mental Dr.

  15. In politics, there are no permanent friends or foes; only permanent interests. This quote comes from Lord Palmerston British Prime minister from 1859-1865 who said, "It is narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our Interests are eternal and perpetual and those interests it is our duty to follow."
    By the same token, USA's foreign policy is always based on its self interest. It supports/promote those who supposedly advance its interest and are considered friendly nations and oppose/destroy those who supposedly interfere/get in the way of its interest. It does not necessarily mean the supposed friends are true friends as they may be a secret foe and/or double agents and vice versa. It is all about perception based on available information which may be true or biased and incorrect.
    Therefore as you said, "VOA is founded to distribute information and news from American perspective in pursuit of US Interests." So, if Eri gov does not agree with the info, it will need to present a countering view to Eri folks especially in Eri since most in diaspora do not listen to them. I personally never tuned to VOA/BBC and other similar foreign media source as I don't have the need. I would rather get my information from INTERNET, newspaper and books. No ERI TV, ETHIO TV AND USA TV FOR ME. They are all to some extent PROPOGANDA MACHINES for the ERI and ETHIO GOV and in case of USA they only promote the agenda of interest groups with deep pockets
    US Africa summit is first and foremost to future US interest. PERIOD. The power that be did not see inviting eri gov to the party as serving US interest.
    You said the current administration stated, "Self-reliant Africa is what the current administration believes that Africa needs." The statement is true. But the administration is not going to help you be self-reliant. Africans alone have to figure out a way to SELF RELIANCE against the tide/resistance of former African Colonizers, Europeans, and their # 1 ally USA. The hard truth is USA needs Africa to advance it own interest. Especially since 2008 US economic has been in very bad shape. It needs Africa in order to elevate US economy. It needs more consumers of US products, such as computer, smart phone, airplanes, cars etc hence the need to help electrify Africa. Without adequate electricity you can't consume computers, smart phone, cars, etc.

  16. Are you smoking crack or hallucinating about GOE. You need help asap.

  17. You see the west has to have a good melancholy entreatment for their TV ordinance by destroying poor nation I don't have to provide example b/c so many of Tham ,Back to our point so VOA has it's purpose the saddest thing known or an known some
    Country people fall for this game if news net work broadcast 80 % news and 20 % of their eval purpose their mission is completed .if they do want Africa to Achieve food,housing,health and education to their people what a better model than the policy of Eriteran government to all it's citizen not leaving no one behind, The Gole is hard a lot more work needed. Eritera don't need unjust UN sanction ,pouring multi million dollars to miss lead the people , what they need is encouragement all know what they believe,the exclude of Eritera shows the nature of the beast they will march on b/c they believe "Not by hand out but the hand with in"it might take a little longer time I am sure "The can do" nation will be to promise land ,so up to me it's not surprising I just wish I don't have to read foolish comment that it comes out from some loather.

  18. EFFORT is losing control in Ethiopia. The people of other clans in Tigray are revolting against the Adwa clan who are controlling the power structure in TPLF rule in Ethiopia. The Adwa clan are having close relationship with some sellout's of the Eritrean opposition and that is making the other Tigrayan clan's to be cautious about these groups.

  19. And then you woke up say DAMN it was only a dream?
    And try to close your eyes to replay this lovely SEMEMEN, but nothing :)
    May be next time agam eshohk !

  20. Lol good one Haaa :)

  21. HELL no ! Adwa, (shewito mariam to be exact) !

  22. Asmorom, Lokmats weyanay!!

  23. Bro Jimmy you said, ".if they do want Africa to Achieve food,housing,health and education to their people what a better model than the policy of Eriteran government to all it's citizen not leaving no one behind, The Gole is hard a lot more work needed."
    What you are describing is a socialist system. All western countries are against socialist system. They believe capitalism is the fair and best way to govern people. Socialist countries and systems interfere with the WESTERN COUNTRIES INTEREST AND WAY OF LIFE. Therefore, as long as eri gov stays a socialist country, WESTERN COUNTRIES will see ERI gov as an enemy. PERIOD.
    So, if eri gov wants TLC(Tender/loving/care) from western countries, it has to adapt a CAPITALIST SYSTEM. It is that simple. I believe responsible CAPITALISM is the best, fair system that will elevate million/billions people from poverty and ignorance much faster than SOCIALISM.
    For capitalism to survive and thrive, you need an accountable gov whose sole purpose is to serve the needs and aspiration of WE the people. Also protect the right and freedom of the people. GOVERNMENT is the servant of the people. WE THE PEOPLE set the rules of capitalist system such as tax, patent rules for all inventions, constitution, etc etc. Government enforces the rules/laws set by WE THE PEOPLE.

  24. Can you tell any capitalist country serving its people as you said. Capitalism means to make individual wealth regadless what happens to all others. Socialsm applied properly is more caring to all the people, like in the scandinavian countries.

  25. Demtsi HAFASH sema-A Amanuel, demtsi HAFASH!

  26. I am to point my view other than My country Man Amanuel Biedermariam VOA with in the Eritrean context with out leaving the base message if I got the message clear from your comment is VOA intension is not to serve a news but to preach western Ideology!

  27. I guess you talking about Agames. They are ready to exit in style without leaving anything to Ethiopian. They are Buying houses and Business all over Europe and America. But I believe will be size all you wealth so please hide somewhere ales like North Korea.

  28. You got it. You must be a genius.

  29. You said, "Can you tell any capitalist country serving its people as you said."

    1. In a capitalist system the gov is not supposed to take care of you. You are supposed to take of yourself. You need to work hard and use you GOD given talent to make something of yourself. PICK YOURSELF UP BY YOUR BOOTSTRAP. Capitalist system will create a vibrant and robust private enterprise and commerce that will generate a JOB OPORTUNITY for anyone that is willing to work hard. It is based on supply and demand. There is always going to be a demand for food, shelter, clothing, medicine, transportation, education, entertainment, etc etc etc which will create job for supplier. FOR EXAMPLE CURRENTLY ERI NEEDS AN AIRLINES SERVICE, A DEMAND. THIS DEMAND CAN BE MET BY HARD WORKING ERI DIASPORA CAPITALIST ENTREPRENEURS. The important point here is that the need of ordinary eri folk will be met. They will be able to travel over the globe to fancy their needs which may be business, tourism, education, visiting family, etc etc. The other important point is that the capitalist investors will take all the profit from their investment and the money as they wish. If the business is profitable you will most likely expand by building airports in every ERI town/cityuse. ERI gov will get some money from business tax. The more robust the business the more tax money for ERI gov which can be used for WELFARE TO HELP THE DISABLE AND JOBLESS. Moreover, hundreds/thousands of good paying ERI jobs will be created.

    If you not able to fend for yourself due to disability or lack of job, the capitalist system will provide you with disability and welfare benefit enough for yours' and family survival.

    2. You said Capitalism means to make individual wealth regardless of what happens to all others."

    The money has be an honest money earned thru hard work, by playing by the rule, that is based on JUST LAW and CONSTITUTION, innovation and invention and pursuit of higher education. True Capitalist system rewards those who work hard, are honest, play by the rule, aim very high, those who are optimist and punishes those who are lazy, dishonest, don't play by the rule (lawless), aim low, pessimist, hardheaded and those who don't want to learn.
    Scandinavian countries an SUPERB CAPITALISTS not socialist. Just because they have a robust social program such as welfare, childcare, etc, it does not mean they are socialist.

  30. And who told you Eritrea is a socialist country? Please keep your old and donkoro philosophy to yourself. Try to get out of your self contradiction first before trying to lecture Eritreans.

  31. So why are you asking questions today? I never so your name on this website before. If you are not commenting here on a daily basis, you cannot just jump in today and ask questions, right? Just like you said, the author cannot write about VOA because he didn't say anything about VOA for the last 20 years. Or are you a sleeping agame who just woke up.

  32. Luela shikor
    R u saying that I shouldn't raise questions now for the reason that I was not seen in the web before. When r u going to learn and practice democracy, I hope that u live outside Eritrea, so u tasted the sense of democratic values.
    regarding 4 ...Or are you a sleeping agame who just woke up.
    I wish to be agame, inter alia, I have the right to leave the country without any problem . Agame is a name to one of tigraian aurajas, Luela haftey. don't be a hear say like the puppets of YPFDJ

  33. Bro, If Eri is not a socialist country then what is it? Is it a communist? Capitalist? mixture of Socialist and Capitalist? I have not being to Eri for a long time so I can't authoritatively say hat it is a socialist country. However, based on info from family, world news and eri websites, my impression is it is a socialist country. Please correct me if I am wrong.
    If you are claiming Eri is Capitalist or mixture of Capitalist and Socialist, please provide with name of Capitalist companies and details about their operation such as revenue, tax they pay, profit, debt, number of employees, average salary of employee, who are the customers, years in operation, who is the owner of the company, etc. Thank you very much in advance.
    Lastly, I am not trying to lecture anyone. I was just trying the answer the question posed by SEM. PERIOD.


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