BY RUBY SANDHU
Principled activism and journalism, which are fundamentally rooted in the adherence to the tenets of integrity, honesty, ethics, facts, and the basic principle of “do no harm” are important cornerstones of an advanced functioning democracy.
However, with regard to the case of Eritrea, – I have witnessed anything but principled activism and journalism toward this Horn of Africa country.
Besides the sheer lack of genuine and honest reporting, numerous peaceful, upstanding Eritrean-British citizens have been subjected to harassment. Many have had to silently bear shrill, rude, aggressive, intimidating, emotive behaviour – tantamount to bullying – by anti-Eritrea activists who provide content for the false reporting which unprincipled journalists use.
This has led frustrated Eritreans to totally give up and refuse to attend or participate in events organised by truly concerned activists in the UK and across Europe. These Eritreans cite our flawed western system, rigged in favour of subversive activism and as against Eritrea and which, at its heart, is not genuinely concerned with protecting the human rights of the Eritrean people.
Furthermore, these Eritrean-British citizens, in addition to suffering from the above-noted harassment, have been subjected to a number of cases of grievous bodily harm, frequently in front of their families and young children. Unfortunately, the “anything goes” and “getting away with it” mentalities guiding the behaviour of anti-Eritrea activists is possible because of the mantle that words such as “journalism”, “activism” and “human rights” afford – especially in the West and especially where Eritrea is concerned.
Such activists and journalists are provided important platforms in the West, without any semblance of rigour or balanced discussion. Whenever they are confronted for misrepresenting facts or falsely reporting events – these individuals remain silent – or simply reinvent themselves on social media platforms – thus opportunistically aligning themselves to revised narratives. This has been particularly so since the recent developments in the Horn, with the ushering in of peace as between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
The credibility we lend to patently unethical and wholly unprincipled behaviour by such journalists and activists is closely associated with our false reporting and “fake news” on Eritrea, which have long pervaded the mainstream media in the UK and Europe.
Furthermore, it is because of the unchecked legitimacy that we afford to a handful of so-called experts.
These so-called experts, who have either – never set foot in Eritrea, or have not travelled to Eritrea in decades.
And of course, we are becoming aware of our role in unprincipled activism and journalism best referred to as “fake news”, which at its heart is focused on the pursuit of subversive agendas, including that of regime change.
This is the agenda for the activism and fake news with respect to Eritrea
First, there is a deliberate and continuous disinformation campaign against Eritrea in our media. One particular journalist, infamous for consistently reporting information which is regularly proven to be incorrect is regularly in breach of the fundamental ethics that guide the practice of journalism. Over a number of years, he has provided outright false and/or fabricated information. Problematically, this information has then cascaded through social media and other press outlets to create a disinformation campaign on Eritrea.
Just this month, an article titled “Eritrea: Three Ministers offer their resignation as thousands of young professionals leave the country“ was published. The problem, however, was that it was completely fabricated, as verified by senior government officials and others in Asmara, setting aside the clear factual inconsistencies about the structure and set-up of cabinet meetings.
This fabricated account was released by a group that has been at the forefront of providing false stories and misinformation on Eritrea. This group is the infamous Arbi Harnet (also known as the Freedom Friday Network) – this is a group associated with the Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change (EYSC).
EYSC is an opposition group with an explicit regime change agenda towards Eritrea. The group leverages the mass use of automated calls with pre-recorded anti-Eritrean Government messages, as well as the use of IM apps, MMS messages, satellite radio, email and SoMe (Facebook and YouTube) to instill an anti-government attitude in the Eritrean population. To that end, the group has established a “global coordination group” of covering strategy, mobilization, and promotion. The campaign is supported by a group of volunteers on standby that takes up tasks allotted via Facebook.
Members of EYSC have committed egregious acts of violence and physical attacks against Eritrean-British citizens that support the people and government of Eritrea. In the past, EYSC members have been guilty of a range of significant crimes, including harassment, theft, vandalism, arson, aggravated assault, and in two cases – conspiracy to commit murder.
Although EYSC states that it does not receive Ethiopian support, there are strong suspicions that this is not true and only claimed in order to avoid discrediting the group among Eritreans. In at least two recorded instances in Sweden, EYSC members were arrested for various incidents alongside. It was later revealed that some of those arrested were Ethiopian nationals.
In addition, last year there were severe factual errors and considerable inconsistencies found within “news” accounts of the small protest surrounding a school in Asmara. The so-called reports claimed widespread killings, mass detentions, and torture perpetrated by the authorities and government forces. There were also reports of protests spreading to other Eritrean cities (e.g. Keren and Assab). These claims were all later to be revealed as untrue, and later certain news outlets in the West posted retractions.
One of the main sources for the original claims was Arbi Harnet, which sought to create confusion and promote an image of dissension and uprisings.
Last year and this year in January, there have also been continuous and uncorroborated claims of an escalation in tension between Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, yet once again there was no reference to cited sources or facts and accounts were highly evasive. If this is unsubstantiated why were efforts made to publish such uncorroborated and vague information other than to instill or maintain a negative narrative against Eritrea? This is the approach of unprincipled journalism.
Another uncorroborated claim was on the alleged existence of a UAE detention facility on Eritrean soil. In a short series of articles, information from Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Associated Press – stories were used to forward the idea that there was a UAE detention facility in the port of Assab. However, even HRW clearly stated that it was not able to verify these claims and the Eritrean Presidential Advisor, Mr. Yemane Gebreab, strongly denied the reports. Unfortunately, there was no balanced reporting on the matter.
Then there was the highly selective use of data and information to support a narrative of famine in Eritrea. Despite the fact, that countless international organizations and institutions within Eritrea have regularly released data and made claims to the contrary. The source of this information was, once again, Arbi Harnet.
What is extraordinary is that this is only a small sample of the reporting on Eritrea. The sources that provide the information guiding the narrative on Eritrea are held to be the experts on Eritrea, when, in fact, they are guided by ulterior motives and personal interests.
These sources not only lack credibility among Eritreans, but they also fail to exhibit any of the principles associated with ethical and principled journalism or activism – transparency, honesty, integrity, fairness, and objectivity.
I think it is important – and long overdue – that Eritreans and British citizens demand accountability and transparency, from these so-called activists and journalists who provide such distorted information and coverage on Eritrea.
 http://awate.com/interview-with-eritreas-freedom-friday-organizers/, accessed October 4, 2018
 https://martinplaut.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/eritrea-shots-fired-at-students-it-was-like-black-hawk-down/ https://martinplaut.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/eritrea-protest-update-defiance-and-calls-for-unity/ https://martinplaut.wordpress.com/2017/11/02/eritrea-update-asmara-protestors-including-women-and-children-beaten-and-tortured-during-interrogation/
Article(s): Eritrea: shots fired at students – “It was like Black Hawk Down!”. Date: 31/10/2017 / Eritrea protest update: defiance and calls for unity. Date: 01/11/2017 / New video of Monday’s demonstration and shooting Date: 02/11/2017 / Asmara protestors – including women and children – beaten and tortured during interrogation. Date: 02/11/2017
 Article: Firing erupts along Eritrea-Ethiopia border as refugees flee. Date: 02/11/2017 https://martinplaut.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/breaking-news-firing-erupts-along-eritrea- ethiopia-border-as-refugees-flee/
 Article(s): Eritrea drought and malnutrition: the diaspora speaks up; the regime is in denial. Date: 19/03/2017 / Eritrea: more evidence of victims of drought. Date: 26/03/2017 / Eritrea: a drought denied, hardship compounded. Date: 10/01/2017 / Eritrea: drought, hunger and malnutrition – the evidence. Date: 27/10/2016 (the hunger accusations were launched in 2016)
https://martinplaut.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/eritrea-drought-and-malnutrition-the-diaspora-speaks-up-the-regime-is-in-denial/ https://martinplaut.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/eritrea-a-drought-denied-hardship-compounded/ https://martinplaut.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/eritrea-drought-hunger-and-malnutrition-the-evidence/