According to a story published on Deutsche Welle website, Eritrea’s foreign ministry has summoned Germany’s ambassador to the country – Ambassador Gerald Wolf - accusing Germany’s international broadcaster of “unbridled smear campaigns”.
Deutsche Welle is a 65 year old news media that broadcasts in Amharic to the Horn region. Why would Deutsche Welle engage in a smear campaign against Eritrea?
Mr. Yemane Gebremeskel, Eritrea’s information minister, said “the German Government funded Deutsche Welle persists in its unbridled smear campaigns against Eritrea. Latest in these despicable series of onslaughts is a set of half-baked and strident website pieces on the peace process and the National Service by its senior editors of the English/Amharic Services.”
#Eritrea's Foreign Ministry has summoned Germany's Ambassador to Eritrea to seek clarification/rectification of this incessant vitriol, which has nothing to do with objective journalism, by an outfit funded by the German Government.— Yemane G. Meskel (@hawelti) October 21, 2019
The Eritrean National Service (ENS) is a touchy subject as far as the government is concerned. According to analysts, it lies at the core of the post-independence state, not only supplying its military, but affecting every aspect of the country's economy, its social services, its public sector and its politics. Therefore, ENS is off-limits to ‘foreign media’. The absconding ENS recruits end up in the shores of Europe and many manage to gain entry into Germany and other countries. And yet, as far as the minster is concerned, media outlets such as Deutsche Well are not allowed to cover ENS stories as they see them. Deutsche Welle, and other media outlets, can depict ENS with flying colours but they should refrain from assessing it critically.
The Peace Process between Ethiopia and Eritrea is also another touchy subject matter. The Peace Agreement was signed last year and Eritrea continues to play-act as if there is progress on the ground. The border, the main issue of contention with Ethiopia, has not been demarcated, young people are still fleeing to avoid the National Service, and life has not gone back to normal. Therefore, is Deutsche Welle not allowed to form an opinion regarding this ‘fake peace’?
The minister is clearly twisting the reality on the ground and yet he accuses Deutsche Welle of ‘fake news’. He very well knows the problems with the open-ended national service that is driving people to flee; and he is also aware of the stalled peace process that was simply feigned.
The Eritrean information minister also signalled that a similar summon was “served to the UK Ambassador, more than a couple of times in the past.”
The minister issued a warning by saying “there are other tools/options when grievances are not heeded and appropriate remedies not subsequently taken.”
Moreover, the foreign ministry has said in his meeting with the German ambassador the government would seek “clarification/rectification” over Deutsche Welle’s coverage of events in Eritrea.
BTW, what did Deutsche Welle report to incite such a ‘scandal’?
According to BBC Tigrinya, Ludger Schadomsky, the head of Deutsche Welle Amharic Service, wrote a commentary regarding the Peace Prize that was awarded to PM Abiy Ahmed, by stating that the prize went to the wrong person.
Mr Schadomsky said: “the prize has huge significance; and knowing full well that peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea is stalled, how can the award go to the young reformist in Addis Ababa?”
The editor disapproved of the prize by further saying that the PM only signed the Peace Agreement on paper; [it was not followed up by any action.] The border that was opened by so much fanfare was closed in a short while” he added.
Mr Schadomsky also criticised the malfunctioning flights that are supposed to take place between the two countries; he said average people are not flying back and forth but the elites are.
The editor also mentioned that President Isaias is sulking due to the fact he was overlooked during deliberations of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Moreover, the editor stated that the PM received congratulatory notes from all over the world [except from Eritrea]. When the PM lost his mother it is to be remembered that the Eritrean president was among the first ones to despatch a condolence message to him; but this time there was no message from Eritrea to congratulate the PM on winning the peace prize.
Finally, although the editor carefully praised the PM for introducing changes within Ethiopia, he mentioned that the ethnic frictions have not been brought under control.