Eritrea Media Guide – February 2006
Eritrea is the only sub-Saharan African country that does not have any privately-owned news media. It has been described by the Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders as the continent’s “largest prison for journalists”.
In 2001 the Eritrean government banned all private media for “endangering national security” and arrested many journalists after several publications printed the dissenting views of some National Assembly members.
In its 2004 World Press Freedom Review, the Vienna-based International Press Institute said that Eritrea is a country where attempts to report on the state of the country, and the way it is run by the government, often lead to harassment and incarceration.
In its 2005 global report, Reporters Without Borders described Eritrea as one of the most restrictive countries in the world. It reported that no criticism of the government was tolerated, and placed Eritrea 166th out of 167 countries in its ranking of world press freedom.
Reuters news agency reported in December 2005 that along with China, Cuba and Ethiopia, Eritrea jails more journalists than any other country.
There are no private radio or television stations, and the Eritrean government tightly controls the flow of information. A 1996 press law forbids private ownership of broadcast media, and requires that all newspapers and reporters are licensed.
Domestic radio stations
Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea (Dimtsi Hafash) is a government-controlled radio station broadcasting on mediumwave and shortwave. It operates two channels and airs its programmes in 11 languages: Arabic, Tigrigna, Tigre, Saho, Oromo, Amharic, Afar, Bilien, Nara, Hedareb and Kunama.
Radio Zara is the state-run FM station based in the capital Asmara. In April 2005 the former director of Radio Zara, Solomon Abera, told Awate.com that Radio Zara now covers vast areas, with the help of relay stations all over the country.
Eritrea achieved independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Initially, Eritrea’s television service consisted of a few locally produced programmes that were broadcast in Asmara using a transmitter that had previously been used to relay signals from Ethiopian television.
By 1992 the service had become a fully-fledged station named Eri TV (Eritrean Television) and was made an affiliate of France’s programme distributor Canal France International Pro (CFI Pro).
Eri TV is the national public broadcaster of Eritrea, based in Asmara. It provides programming on social, economic, political and cultural events in the country, as well as news and entertainment in four languages: Tigre, Tigrigna, Arabic and English. Eri TV’s programming consists of daily original eight-hour blocks repeated for the benefit of those living outside the Eritrean time zone. The television station has an estimated 500,000 peak viewers. Its website is at www.shabait.com/eri-tv.htm.
Eri TV is transmitted to the Middle East, North and East Africa and Europe via the Arabsat 2B and 3A satellites, and to the US and Canada via Intelsat Americas 5.
In 2004, new digital television equipment was installed at Eri TV by the UK’s On-Air Broadcasting.
Arabic satellite platforms Orbit and ART, and ShowTime (Viacom) Middle East also have satellite footprints over Eritrea for direct- to-home satellite pay TV subscribers.
Clandestine radio stations
Despite the 2001 ban on the private media in Eritrea, several radio stations have been set up outside the country. They broadcast back into Eritrea using the internet or hired time on shortwave transmitters.
Millennium Voice is the radio of the Voice of Eritrea, an exile newspaper group based in Germany. It broadcasts in Arabic and English and has been active since November 2001.
Voice of Delina radio station is also known as DmSi Delina and is the radio of the Tesfa Delina Foundation. The group appears to be based in California, United States and runs a 24-hour internet music radio website. The exact location of the station is unknown. It purchased commercial airtime through Belgian-based TDP. The station has been active since January 2005.
Voice of the Democratic Alliance is the radio of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance, an umbrella grouping of 16 opposition parties. The organization has a multilingual website at http://www.erit- alliance.org. Its location is not stated. Broadcasts are in Afar, Arabic, Kunama and Tigrigna. It has been active since 21 April 2005.
BBC Monitoring observed a programme produced by an Eritrean opposition movement on two shortwave frequencies used by the external service of Radio Ethiopia, at 1501-1600 gmt on 25 May 2005.
Voice of Democratic Eritrea is also known as Voice of the Eritrean Liberation Front Revolutionary Council. Currently broadcasting via hired airtime on Norwegian transmitters, this mouthpiece for the Eritrean Liberation Front was at one time heavily supported by the Sudanese government. Since February 2003 the Voice of Democratic Eritrea has been located in Norway. Previously it was based in Germany. The website at Nharnet.com provides on-demand audio of the Voice of Democratic Eritrea.
Programmes originally originated from Sudan, along with the Voice of Free Eritrea and the Voice of Truth. The ELF previously broadcast the Voice of the Eritrean Liberation Front from Sudan during the 1980s. It broadcasts in Arabic and Tigrigna and has been active since March 2000. Between 20 November 1997 and December 1999 the programme was pulled off Sudan National Radio following a truce between Eritrea and Sudan.
Voice of Liberty is the radio station of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front-Democratic Party (EPLF-DP). It is based in Atlanta, United States and broadcasts in Tigrigna. It has been active since 22 February 2004 and can be heard on the internet at http://selfi- democracy.com, which provides streaming of the radio station.
Voice of Peace and Democracy Eritrea broadcasts via the transmitters of Voice of Tigray Revolution, a licensed station at Mekele in northern Ethiopia. Supporting the People’s Democratic Forces of Eritrea, it was launched during the Ethiopian-Eritrean border conflict in 1999. It also has an audio stream on the internet.
Voice of the Eritrean People is the radio of a Sweden-based opposition group. Its programmes include news from the Eritrean Kunama Democratic Liberation Movement (EKDLM) and the Eritrean National Alliance (ENA). The radio is based in Norway and broadcasts in Tigrigna. It has been active since 1 December 2002.
The Sudanese newspaper Al-Watan reported on 28 October 2005 that a new Eritrean opposition station had started test transmissions on 909 kHz. It is believed that these transmissions emanate from the facilities of Sudanese state radio in the east of that country. This Eritrean station “aims to establish principles of justice, democracy, peace and disseminate human rights in Eritrea”, the report added. Programmes are also to include interviews with opposition leaders, prominent figures in society and those representing social entities. Programmes are broadcast in Arabic and Tigrigna and cover the whole of Eritrea and some areas of neighbouring states including Sudan and Ethiopia, Al-Watan reported.
The press in Eritrea remains under close government scrutiny.
Hadas Eritrea (New Eritrea) is based in Asmara. It was founded in 1991 and is a daily newspaper. It is published in Tigrigna. It is a government publication with a circulation of almost 50,000.
Business Perspective is a monthly published in Tigrigna, Arabic and English. It is published by the Eritrean Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber News is another monthly publication published by the Chamber of Commerce, in Tigrigna, Arabic and English.
Eritrea Profile was founded in 1994 and is published weekly in English. It is government-owned and is published by the Ministry of Information.
Hadith Eritrea is the Arabic version of Hadas Eritrea.
Newsletter is based in Asmara and is a monthly publication which appears in Tigrigna, Arabic and English. It is published by the Eritrean National Chamber of Commerce.
Hidri (Trusteeship) is a monthly magazine published from Asmara in both Arabic and Tigrigna. It is owned by the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) party.
Tirigta is a pro-government youth weekly owned by the ruling party.
Geled is a weekly youth paper. It is published in the Tigre language.
Erina (Eritrean News Agency) was the state-run news agency based in Asmara. It has a website at http://dehai.org/erina/ which has apparently not been updated since July 2001. There is no evidence to suggest that the news agency is still active.
Internet culture is rapidly developing, connecting Eritrea with the rest of the world and diminishing the digital divide.
\landestineradio.com reported in 2005 that internet facilities were introduced in Eritrea in 2000 and the capital Asmara now has several internet cafes. Similar services are being extended to other cities like Massawa, Mendafera, Karen and Decamerah. An estimate shows that about 5,000 people used the internet every day.
There are more than 50 computer centres in Asmara alone, offering various advanced computer courses. In increasing numbers of schools, computer training is available. The University of Asmara and the Eritrea Institute of Technology in Mainefhi both offer advanced computer education, and almost every ministry is training its personnel.
Internet and satellite
The top level domain for Eritrea is .er and there are four internet service providers: Eritrea Telecommunications Services Corporation (Eritel), CTS, TFANUS and Ewan.
Satellite-delivered internet services are available from a number of international service providers.
Pro-government internet sites
Shabait.com publishes reports in English. It has been operating since 2001, run by the Ministry of Information. The Shaebia.org website is owned by the ruling PFDJ party and carries reports in English. Both Shabait and Shaebia sites host the Hadas, Hadith and Eritrea Profile newspapers.
Eritreadaily.net is another pro-government website, which is possibly based in the United States. Its reports are in English.
Dehai.net is based in the United States and is pro-government. Its reports are in English and are drawn from a wide range of sources.
Asmarino.com is a US-based website specializing in Eritrean affairs. Asmarino.com carries an audio link to Voice of Delina radio.
Opposition internet sites
The opposition Awate Foundation has a website at www.awate.com.
Eritrea1.org is an opposition website launched in September 2001. It provides news, commentary and editorial pieces about Eritrea from within and outside Eritrea, in Trigrigna, Arabic and English.
Meskerem.net is a pro-opposition website and is affiliated to the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). It is possibly based in either Australia or the United States and reports in Arabic, English and Tigrigna.
Adal 1961 is a website at adal61.com is operated by the Eritrean Liberation Front Revolutionary Council, named after the place where the Eritrean independence movement was founded in 1961. It publishes items in English, Arabic and Tigringa.
Nharnet.com is also pro-opposition and is affiliated to the Eritrean Liberation Front-Revolutionary Council. It carries news in Arabic, English and Tigrigna.
Gabeel.com is a pro-opposition website affiliated to the ELF. Reports on the website are in Arabic and English.
The opposition Eritrean Islamic Party for Justice and Development has a website at www.awna1.com/ which features news in English and Arabic. Its reports focus on Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Other internet sites
Eritrean News Wire is an internet website at http://eri24.com/. Eri24.com which was founded in May 2001 and aims to establish a bond between Eritreans living in the country and in the Diaspora. The website features news about Eritrea and stories about neighbouring countries. Eri24.com is an independent website and has no political party affiliations. It is based in Texas, United States.
International broadcasting to Eritrea
Voice of America (VOA) has been broadcasting in Tigrigna and Afan Oromo for listeners in Ethiopia and Eritrea since 1996. Tigrigna is one of the working languages of Eritrea, and Afan Oromo (or Oromiffa) is spoken by the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. The two languages joined VOA Amharic, which has been on the air since 1982. The VOA website at www.voanews.com/horn/ features news in Afan Oromo, Amharic and Tigrigna, with audio streaming.
Deutsche Welle publishes news on its website at www.dw-world.de in Amharic and also provides audio streaming in Amharic.
Radio Vatican broadcasts in Amharic and Tigrigna.