By Sophia Tesfamariam,
IT WOULD not be an exaggeration to state that has been an orchestrated media campaign accompanying the release of the report on 8 June 2015 by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Eritrea. Almost immediately after its release, the western media and its tenacled networks produced scathing headlines and “cut and paste” excerpts from the COI report without providing their readers with context or any kind of reasonable analysis. Within an hour, it looked like there were over 100 such reports worldwide. To the average naïve reader, the flurry may have come off looking like some important news alert, but to the astute observers and jaded members of the reading public, it was clear that a media blitz was being orchestrated for some political effect-nothing to do with news, or the truth. The mainstream western media and their tutelage wanted to give the COI report unprecedented “flood-the-zone” coverage. The question is why?
The recent concentration of misleading media about the State of Eritrea and its people has reached a screeching crescendo, nothing new there, the problem is perennial. Eritrea and its leadership have been under constant assault by distorted, contorted, titillating, and insipid headlines for the last 15 years. But the headlines must have “shocked and awed” other readers-that was in fact, its intent.
A number of factors contribute to this troubling pattern of omission and misrepresentation of issues relating to Eritrea, one of them is a persistent case of anti-Eritrea bias, cow towing the official line and tone, and the other is the barrage of misinformation and negative impact of uncritical reliance on claims and allegations proffered by marginal political Eritrean groups and their partners in the international NGOs community with an ax to grind and the unhelpful role played by academics-especially some anthropologists who have made it their forte to denigrate Eritrean and its leadership.
As has been documented in the past, the many of the NGOs, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Voice of the Martyrs and others that influence policy making have distorted Eritrea’s nation building strategy and have endeavored to portray Eritrea in a negative light by repeating unsubstantiated and unverifiable accusations.
The narratives of these NGOs and their unverified allegations are repeated without independent confirmation and are almost always substituted in place of data provided by official sources-which are summarily dismissed.
Despite the problematic nature of these organizations and their anti-Eritrea agendas and claims, the allegations were repeated without independent corroboration, in the latest Commission of Inquiry report, and repeated without independent corroboration by the mainstream media in tow. This orchestrated media blitz was a poor attempt at obscuring the truth about the COI report and its authors.
Grant Cardone, once wrote:
“… I fear the media’s perpetual sensationalizing of bad news more than I do the threat of pandemic flu’s, wars and a faltering economy combined … The media knows that murder, sex, conspiracies, company failures, fear, and scandals sell papers and advertising. They further fuel the fires of chaos and hopelessness as they continue to disseminate the negative with no regard for the effect their reporting has on the public’s emotional and mental state … The media thrives on and depends on bad news for its survival, like a parasite eating away at its organism, sucking hope from entire populations of the people they call viewers. It rotates its coverage from one sensational event to the next until the story wears out, and then it searches for the next fear-provoking story…”
As Eritreans, we have become accustomed to reading negative ad insulting stories in the mainstream media and are not surprised by the latest “blitz”. No doubt a lot of resources have been expanded to help give weight to the Commission of Inquiry’s otherwise weak and partisan report, but did it warrant the media explosion witnessed in the last few days? Was the level of negativity and contempt warranted? If we are to search for meaning and intent of such a concerted media effort, we would come up with precious little. That is not to say its intentions weren’t big. While the intense negativity and exaggerated presentations are part of an elaborate 15-year long multi-pronged psychological warfare directed at Eritrea, there is absolutely no doubt that this particular blitz had a singular intention. To break the morale and spirit of the Eritrean people, especially the strong willed and united Eritrean Diaspora, its undeclared nemesis.
This misguided media frenzy that has ensued as part of the smear campaign waged against the people and the government of Eritrea by the UN Commission of Inquiry, does nothing further the cause of human rights in our world, or in Eritrea, nor does it inform or educate the public on the issues raised by the Commission of Inquiry. The headlines were confusing and contemptuous of the readers, who should have been provided with easy to comprehend analysis on the deluge presented in the 484 page COI report and its 28 page summary.
Instead, the media blitz resembled a marketing strategy designed for a defective and bad product. Upon reading the long winded collection of hearsay and innuendo that make up the COI’s report, its flawed methodology and questionable sources, no doubt the readers would soon realize that it was indeed an undesirable product, desperate for coverage. The COI report, despite the media blitz, was deemed dead on arrival.
The hyperbolic headlines elicited nothing more than a roll of the eyes and a shaking of the heads from the average Eritrean, and an equally perplexed response from non-Eritreans. The recent reports on Eritrea produced by the UN Development Program, which has presence in Eritrea, and the reports presented at the side events at the United Nations in New York a few months back, simply did not jive with what the COI was reporting on Eritrea from its distant quarters.
So what did the media blitz accomplish? For starters, it has reinforced the public’s distrust of the mainstream media and has in fact brought renewed interest in Eritrea and its people and opened up opportunity for greater understanding between the peoples who are chatting and sharing in cyberspace. The cyber spatial forums provide an exchange of views and opinions absent in the agenda setting mainstream media networks. For Eritrea’s enemies, the headlines provided the tonic that sent some on a drunken media stupor. Tomorrow’s headlines and the truth, will provide the antidote, the truth, a cure for all media related hangovers.
Unfortunately, the mainstream media was hijacked for the dissemination of a blatantly false, unfiltered, and defamatory anti-Eritrea report and the public was left bewildered and aghast. Judging from the many questions received via email and on social media following the release of the report, the average reader is questioning the veracity of the information and wondering why the majority of the Eritreans seem to reject it outright. From the halls of government, to refugee agencies, to the NGOs networks, to the news media, and the disgruntled members of the Eritrean Quislings League (EQL)-everyone has skin in this game and will do whatever it takes to get under ours.
Not this time … Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me …
In about a couple of weeks the Commission of Inquiry will deliver its Report to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland. No doubt, there will be another coordinated media blitz following that event. Eritreans know how to respond.