Opinion: The Voice of the Voiceless

Radio Erena: 20 October 2020

Radio Erena a beacon of Eritrean exiled media has become famous for being the voice of the voiceless in reference to its ardent expression of Eritrean ‘silent’ multitude inside the country. Giving Radio Erena the Award of Media Courage in Africa last week, the Chairman of Africa Media Development Foundation Dr. Yialu Umaru praised the Radio as being the ‘link between the outside world and the people in Eritrea’, reporting with courage on that country where the freedom of the press is suffering brutally.

The awarding body, the Africa Media Development Foundation AMDF is a Nigerian NGO that ‘provides support to media and works towards strengthening democracy and attainment of sustainable development.’ The focus areas of AMDF are press freedom, media training, health and educational peace and democracy, and human rights. Within its support for transparent reporting on African countries, AMDF grants annual awards for media courage in the continent for institutions and individuals. In the individuals’ category, the winner of this year’s award is the Gambian Journalist Ndey Tapah Sosseh, the editor in chief of The Observer in the Gambia. She had been arrested by the former Gambian dictator Yahiya Jamie and was exiled to Mali.

In December 2019, Radio Erena received the Award of Human Rights of The French Republic. The Consultative National Commission for Human Rights CNCDH had awarded Radio Erena the special prize for courageous reporting on human rights issues.

These two prestigious awards were preceded by the Special Award of One World Media in 2017. One World Media was established in 1988 to “to support strong, vibrant, and independent media coverage on developing countries that empower citizens promotes justice and creates social impact.” Along with Radio Erena, two contenders competed for the Special Award: Anti-corruption, the Center for Investigative Journalism in Moldova and Nuba reports, a special organization reporting on mass abuses of human rights in Nuba Mountains in Sudan. In the Award speech, Erena was given the special award for being an essential “media outlet for the Eritrean people who suffer under the brutal suppression of freedom of the press.”

It was after this event that Newsweek and the Guardian interviewed some of Erena’s team of journalists to know more about Eritrea, which ranked 197 out of 180 (2017) in the Annual Freedom of Press Index issued by Reporters Without Borders. Eritrea is as opaque as a black box, not much is known about it, especially the thousands of prisoners of prisoner of conscience who languish in prisons, including more than 10 journalists held incommunicado since 2001. This bleak situation put more burdens on Radio to report the grave human rights abuses in the country: it is no more about the detained journalist; it rather about a hijacked country. As Eritrea is steadily heading towards thirty bitter years under notorious dictatorship, the commitment of Radio Erena increases, with an indispensable need for more illuminating reporting and firm stand against the system of untruth. The three prestigious awards in Radio Erena’s march towards media excellence are testimonies of a good representation of the voiceless.

By Ariana Ezekiel

Lagos Nigeria