In Eritrea, the focus of national development is the people. Similarly, the mass media of Eritrea is not solely a commercial enterprise; rather, it’s a service aimed at guiding, informing and entertaining the people. The overall object of national development is human development which includes, amongst other things, enlarging people’s choices for greater access to knowledge and information, better nutrition, education and health services, greater security and stability. Media has played a central role in winning our liberation and preserving our independence. Now, it has made a successful contribution to national development by performing many roles.
Media’s function to act as a guardian of public interest and agenda setting are among the most important roles of the media. Media can often determine what to think and worry about. Media is a watchdog that speaks for the people and represents the interests of the people. Media’s role in national development can be analysed from political, economic and social perspectives. In the political sphere, media’s role in raising political consciousness and public relations is positive. In the economic sphere, media can play their role in advertisements and tourism. In the social sphere, media has an important role in combating corruption, ignorance, criminal violence, and health problems. For example, corruption distorts economic and social development. The media can act as a force against corruption by exposing corruption. Radio programs, such as “hzbn polisn”, and the law and society column in gazette, educate the society about corruption and provide strong incentives for changing behaviour.
In many conflicts, we have seen media that works to inflame and exacerbate the conditions by over simplification, exaggeration and outright sensationalism, suppression or outright distortion of facts, bias cultural insensitivity. Such actions not only make the media lose credibility, they also serve as an avenue for increasing conflicts. The media in Eritrea, Dmtsi Hafash, Radio Numa, Radio Zara, Newspapers Eritrea Profile, Hadas Eritrea Al’Hadisa, TV programs and Youtube channels EmbassyMedia, DendenMedia, websites Shabait, EritreaCompass, Dehai have had encouraging track record in terms of avoiding such harmful practices. In fact, not only do they often present quality work, they also play a positive role in enhancing the national unity of the Eritrean society.
The western media are often responsible for disseminating false information about Eritrea. The distorted information about Eritrea generally fails to inform about the context or background to any event. They simply rush to tell their perspective, without presenting the causes or complexity of the story. Western media, along with other regional media outlets, have become the convenient vehicles for blackmail and instruments of hidden agenda. Ruby Sandhu, an international human rights lawyer, has stated that “To date the only narrative that is present in the Western press about Eritrea is that of the NGOs, the politicised actions of the HRC and the activists all of whom have never visited Eritrea.” BBC journalist Mary Harper, who actually visited Eritrea, has also said “Eritrea has a serious image problem, but if you work in the best of your abilities, beyond your humble and modest tradition of not bragging on your own, you will definitely be able to portray [a more accurate account].” Our media outlets should therefore increase their efforts to tell the complete story of Eritrea.
Eritrea’s mass media is often socially and morally responsible and the media have a moral obligation to society to provide information for citizens to make informed decisions. Our media is an alternative to the profit making corporate media. It emphasizes the empowerment of people with their active participation not as passive listeners. During the struggle for independence, Radio Dmtsi Hafash and other journalistic activities were instrumental in exposing the tyranny and exploitation of Ethiopian colonial rule. Radio Dmtsi Hafash had a force multiplying effect that added to the combat effectiveness of military operations. Media coverage not only develops public awareness and the support of the military in operations, they also have the benefit of enhancing the morale of troops and the people. Radio Dmtsi Hafash was an offensive weapon against our enemies.
The mass media continued to play a key and leading role in the struggle for the preservation of independence and national reconstruction. After independence, our media outlets are not only performing the traditional role of supplying the people with information about the daily events, but also assumed a responsive role of shouldering the burden of trust of our martyrs by fighting an overzealous TPLF invasion. During and after the TPLF invasion our mass media sustained an effective struggle against false information (FAKE NEWS) about Eritrea. Through extensive anti-distorted information articles, editorials, publications and broadcast they struggled to preserve the true image of Eritrea.
Our mass media should challenge the notion of domination and provide an alternative narrative of truth and must be a national platform that represents the cultural diversity of Eritrea. Eritrean media outlets distribute message of truth, peace and development to national and international audiences. They all present history and look for posterity, contribute to national unity and social harmony, serve as a voice for the voiceless, and prepare the people for their role in national development. The radio, newspapers, magazines and television must continue their focus on practices that are geared towards development, hard work, dignity, ethical governance and discipline, environmental and cultural protection, and general improvement.
Information & Communication Office
Embassy of the State of Eritrea to UK & Ireland