ESAT and Ethiopian News Media
By Mark T. Aga
ESAT - Ethiopian Satellite Television is available through TV, radio broadcasts and also online. ESAT is considered one of a few sources of external news broadcast that can be accessed in Ethiopia by means of satellite. The two other alternative sources of daily satellite transmissions are OMN - Oromia Media Network and VOA - Voice of America.
For several years, founders and journalists working for ESAT have been a major source of criticism for the current Ethiopian government.
Among other things, ESAT attempts to document and expose violations caused by members of the security forces or of those giving the orders from above. ESAT favors a united democratic Ethiopia, while OMN advocates self-determination, as well as, secession for Oromia, Ethiopia's largest ethnic population.
Recently, evidence was presented by ESAT which included photos, lists of names and ethnicity of the people who lead the courts, electoral boards, as well as the security forces, the military, the police, etc.
This is nothing out of the ordinary, as ESAT has always been at the forefront of attacks against the incumbent government, although, recent actions taken by the EPRDF have rather helped ESAT's credibility.
The Ethiopian government formally charged the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and the Oromia Media Network (OMN) with the notorious anti-terrorism law claiming they were the parties responsible for the violence and street protests that have plagued Ethiopia of late. The controversial political activist and manager of OMN, Jawar Mohammed was also charged.
During the state of emergency currently in effect throughout Ethiopia, tuning in to ESAT television broadcasts was forbidden by the government. They have officially tagged ESAT as a broadcast media channel run by anti-peace forces and terrorists.
Currently, there are more independent media sources for Ethiopia located outside the country than within. Most of these media outlets have opted to get the attention of Ethiopians within the country through entertaining programs as opposed to the politically inclined ESAT.
The Ethiopian government is presently renting a satellite in an attempt to house all the new channels that have come on line in recent years. The broadcast authority claims it will help the country save hard currency.
Neamin Zeleke, managing director of ESAT, accused the Ethiopian government in December of 2014, of attempting to hack his computer through emails. ESAT was first attacked in 2013 by hackers using Remote Control System, a spyware owned by an Italian company called Hacking Team this accusation was based on a report by Citizen Lab, based in the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.
Citizen Lab, which researches information technology, security, and human rights, claims to be able to link the hackers to the Ethiopian governments' INSA or Information Network Security Agency.
ESAT has also laid blame on the Ethiopian government for scrambling or jamming its satellite broadcast frequency, therefore causing them to have to constantly change frequencies.
ESAT maintains its broadcasts impart to the continuous funding it receives from anti-government Ethiopian Diaspora mostly living in Europe and the United States.
With Ethiopia's new leader Dr. Abiye Ahmed, now promising sweeping changes and a platform for the opposition, it remains to be seen what course ESAT and the Ethiopian news media shall take.
Update: It appears the Ethiopian government has dropped all charges against all opposition media.