World Press Freedom Day 2018: Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law
London, June, 12th, 2017 (RSF). The London-based charity One World Media presented its 2017 special award at a ceremony in London last week, to Radio Erena, Eritrea’s only independent news radio station, launched eight years ago in Paris with the support of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Received on behalf of Radio Erena by Fathi Osman, the special award has been given annually since 1988 to independent journalists covering politics, social issues or local culture in their own country, usually developing countries like Eritrea.
“It is great to have the award,” Osman said. “I feel really great because honouring Radio Erena is an honour for the voiceless and the journalists behind bars in Eritrea. It is a special day for Eritrean media."
In Paris, Radio Erena journalist Amanuel Ghirmai said: “On this occasion, I felt Radio Erena's voice won over ‘the fear,’ which is the Eritrean government’s preferred instrument for silencing its citizens. I am so proud of Radio Erena’s team for their fight to expose the realities in Eritrea and at the same time remain independent. I hope, one day Radio Erena will be able to broadcast from Asmara.”
There is no independent media outlet within Eritrea that covers what life is like for Eritreans and the political and social conditions in their country. Radio Erena is a unique entity that links Eritrean exiles and Eritrea, covering not only diaspora issues but also Eritrea’s history, what is happening there now and international developments.
Both Eritreans in Eritrea and the Eritrean diaspora worldwide can listen to hear Radio Erena’s impartial and professional news coverage. Broadcasting from Paris in Tigrinya and Arabic – the country’s two national languages – it is recognized by its people as the most reliable Eritrean radio station.
Its creation realized the dream of Biniam Simon, a well-known journalist with Eritrea’s state-owned national broadcaster Eri TV who fled Eritrea and arrived in France in 2007. He wanted to be able to exercise his profession freely and provide fellow Eritreans with independently reported news. Thanks to his perseverance and RSF’s support, he was finally able to launch Radio Erena (which means “Our Eritrea” in Tigrinya) in Paris in 2009.
Radio Erena’s reporting is produced by a team of four professional journalists based in Paris and a dozen correspondents throughout the world. Far from being an opposition mouthpiece, like other Eritrean exile radio stations, Radio Erena is committed to balanced news coverage.
But this has not stopped the regime from turning Radio Erena into a target of its propaganda and disinformation campaigns. The attacks on the radio station in 2012 (when its website was hacked and its satellite signal was jammed by a pirate transmission from within Eritrea) and the frequent attempts from within Eritrea to jam its shortwave signal, are all evidence of Radio Erena’s importance.