By Fanta Kiros
The main objective of the VOA, according to the US government, is to promote freedom and democracy, and to enhance understanding through multimedia communication. It aims to accomplish its objective by disseminating accurate, objective, and balanced news, information and other programming about America and the world to audiences overseas.
The VOA is a branch of the US Information Agency (USIA), which is dealt an annual budget of $ 1.1 billion. The USIA’s main aim is to support American foreign policy and promote US national interest. Having established that, the VOA Amharic program is required to produce an objective and balance news to serve the interest of the US government and US tax payers, not the interest of a foreign government.
An alternate media, ESAT (Ethiopian Satellite Television)http://ethsat.com/new/esat-radio-aug-13-2014/ financed by the Ethiopian diaspora community- reported yesterday that the VOA Amharic program have made “inaccurate and unverified politically motivated reporting by Mr. Henok Semaegzer, 15 days after the cancellation of the honoring program for the Prime Minster of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Deselegn, by Azusa Pacific University in California.” http://addisvoice.com/2014/07/hailemariam-humiliated-as-university-withdraws-honor/.
In the VOA Amharic program on Tuesday, reporter Semaegzer, stated that “Azusa Pacific University has announced that the prime minster of Ethiopia, Mr. Hailemariam Deselegn, had canceled the honoring program with Azusa Pacific University because had to travel back to Ethiopia.” Semaegzer also reported that the spokesperson of the university, Rachel White, had admitted that she has spoken to Journalist and Activist, Abebe Gelaw, and she accuses him of drawing his own conclusions on the matter, and presenting the university as defeated.
The Prime Minster of Ethiopia was scheduled to attend the US Africa Leader Summit held in Washington DC from August 4-6, and the honoring ceremony by Azusa University, was scheduled for July 31 in Los Angles, California. The university was notified prior to the ceremony- by Abebe Gelaw, and the Global Alliance for Rights of Ethiopia- of planned demonstrations in Los Angeles by opposition parties. Reportedly, the university officials opted to cancel the award program in order to avoid negative publicity.http://quatero.net/archives/29041
ESAT interviewed, Mr. Abeba Gelaw on August 13 stating that he had contacted VOA to produce the voice recording on the alleged interview between Rachel White and VOA. However, so far, the VOA Amharic program has been unable to produce any voice recordings pertaining to the interview with Rachel White. ESAT is also claiming to have attempted to contact the reporter Henok Semaegzer and his supervisor Peter Heinlein- the chief of Horn of Africa VOA- with no success.
Based on the recent interviews on ESAT with the former Deputy Minister of Communication of Ethiopia, Ermias Legesse, most of the Ethiopian government officials, including the Prime Minster of Ethiopia, were awarded dubious correspondence masters degrees from Azusa Pacific University.http://www.apu.edu/about/
Both ESAT and Mr. Ermias Legesse are accusing VOA that -since Peter Heinlein took charge of the VOA Amharic program- the broadcast is conducting its publication in the interest of the Ethiopian government, making unverified and one-sided narratives on controversial topics.
Two weeks ago, the Ethiopian opposition activist and journalist, Abebe Gelaw, made a voice recording when he spoke with Rachel White, and released the recording to ESAT on August 13th. In the recording, White states that “the University had in fact canceled the award program intended for the prime minster of Ethiopia based on information gathered from the US State Department’s Human Rights Reporthttp://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220113.htm, and other news coming out of Ethiopia.” The voice recording also reaffirms that the university canceled the program because human rights are very important to Azusa Pacific University, and that “God is first” in their establishment.
The Ethiopian tax-paying, diaspora, listeners have every right to demand that the VOA-Amharic program produce the interview recordings with Rachel White of Azusa Pacific University. If unable to produce the recordings, the VOA-Amharic program should make an immediate statement that it has made unverified and unconfirmed reporting 15 days after the fact, about the cancellation of the honoring ceremony for the Prime Minster of Ethiopia, by the Azusa Pacific University.
Moving forward, it is also the responsibility of the Ethiopian diaspora to demand that VOA release unbiased reports that serve the interest of the United States government and the Interests of the US tax payers (i.e. Ethiopian Americans).