- President Isaias Afewerki, who in 2001 had exterminated all free media in Eritrea, now wants to recruit the remaining state media to wage an increased propaganda "war" internationally. The campaign is to legitimise the continued lack of elections.
At a meeting in Sawa, Eritrea's national military training centre, the President told party youths and representatives of state media that the press needed to "be adequately harnessed for all-round united resistance," using rhetoric from the independence war, which Mr Afewerki still makes use of by making sure to keep Eritrea in constant conflict with its neighbours.
Stating that "we are at an era where the hardest of wars are fought with the media," President Afewerki highlighted the need for "the increased participation of all Eritreans in the effort" and said that "every work embarked upon in the domain needs proper planning beforehand."
The speech, which was spread throughout the country by national media, sent a signal to the country's remaining press practitioners that their propaganda efforts needed to be strengthened. It also made it clear that journalists needed to communicate even closer with Mr Afewerki's party officials on which cases to cover and how to cover them.
The acting Minister of Information for Eritrea, Ali Abdu Ahmed, also participated at the Sawa meeting, promising President Afewerki that new guidelines regarding how the media were to participate in Eritrea's propaganda war were "already in the pipeline." Minister Ali Abdu pointed out "the vitality of the role of media in the united resistance," making it clear that the Eritrean press only was to work as a tool for the government's propaganda efforts.
In taking Eritrea's propaganda "war" efforts internationally, President Afewerki announced a "broadened coverage" of the state broadcaster 'ERI-TV' worldwide. Government was to secure a wider Eritrean correspondent networks throughout the world "to challenge the current global atmosphere." For the many Eritreans in the Diaspora, this is bad news, as government-controlled media correspondents generally have been used to intimidate Eritreans abroad and infiltrate dissident networks,
President Afewerki, who has never stood an election, in 2001 eliminated the private and independent press in Eritrea, throwing a large number of journalists into the country's feared torture chambers. Several have been reported dead following ill-treatment. During the last years, the Dictator has increasingly purged state media, where suspected "spies" have been imprisoned, leading to a large number of journalists fleeing the country.
The result is one of the world's most closed countries, only comparable to North Korea and Libya, where all information is thoroughly filtered by eager party officials. The paranoid government has also rooted out all opposition in the country and is thoroughly watching any citizen talking to foreigners. Thus, even information escaping abroad from Eritrea mostly has been filtered by the feared Ministry of Information.
Eritrea has been in almost constant conflict with neighbours and the international community during the last decade, most notably the Ethiopian-Eritrean border war, the Eritrean sponsorship of groups linked to al-Qaeda in Somalia and constant obstruction of UN missions.
For Mr Afewerki and his regime, there is a constant need of "threats" from abroad to enable him to lead Eritrea's continued "all-round united resistance." Without such a "need" for "resistance", the President would be obliged to call for elections and allow opposition parties. President Afewerki now wants to communicate this "need for resistance" stronger to the population - and the large Diaspora sending money home - through government-controlled media, thus legitimising his firm grip on power.
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