The Voice of America has doubled its Afan Oromo and Tigrigna language broadcasts to Ethiopia and Tigrigna broadcasts to Eritrea. The programs are broadcast one half-hour daily, Monday through Friday. "This expansion continues our effort to increase broadcasts to audiences in the Horn of Africa region," said V-O-A Director David Jackson.
Reaction from speakers of Afan Oromo and Tigrigna has been positive. As one Afan Oromo caller to V-O-A put it, "My deepest appreciation goes to the American government and its public for providing information to the Oromo people, who are kept in the dark for so long."
International broadcasting is important to the Horn of Africa. Freedom of speech and press are severely restricted in Eritrea. The privately-owned, independent press was shut down by Eritrean authorities in 2001 and remains closed. A number of journalists, including Fessahaye Yohannes, Seyoum Tsehaye, Dawit Isaak, and Temesgen Gebreyesus have been detained without trial since September 2001.
In July 2003, V-O-A correspondent Aklilu Solomon was arrested after broadcasting a news story concerning the families of Eritrean soldiers killed in the war with Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000. He reported that the families wept with sorrow. This contradicted Eritrea's state-run media, which claimed that the families cheered with pride at the news of the deaths of their loved ones. Since his arrest, Mr. Solomon has been held incommunicado by the Eritrean military. Amnesty International says that he is reportedly being kept "in a metal shipping container at Adi Abeto prison, near Asmara."
Ethiopia also restricts freedom of speech and press. All broadcast media are controlled by the government. Some private and government journalists, fearing government authorities, censor themselves. Private newspapers are active and express a wide variety of views. There are reports that during 2003, police harassed, beat, and detained some Ethiopian journalists.
Some ninety-four million people around the world -- including the Horn of Africa region -- tune in each week to the Voice of America in forty-four languages. For all listeners, V-O-A's goal is the same as that stated in its first broadcast in 1942: "The news may be good; the news may be bad. We will tell you the truth."