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BBC’s mendacios report

By Berhane Kahsay
August 06 2011

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has done it again. BBC 2 aired a program on Thursday, 4 August, 2011, accusing the government of Ethiopia of gross ‘human rights abuse’. Not a shred of corroborating evidence was submitted to substantiate these outlandish allegations. The same corporation had previously accused the TPLF for using’ Band Aid‘s’ money, intended for humanitarian assistance, for the purchase of weapons during the liberation struggle. Subsequently, this was found to be utterly false, and the corporation and the presenter were forced to apologise publicly. For the maximum damaging impact, the documentary was shown just weeks before the last general elections.

The BBC was forced to climb down owing to the establishment of the fact that the entire program was based on a concocted evidence supplied by disaffected members of the TPLF who had an axe to grind. At no time did the BBC bother to check the veracity of the allegations, it simply took them as the gospel truth and gave the go ahead for the documentary to be aired. One is left with no option but to conclude that the standards of journalism at the doyen of broadcasting corporations are slipping very badly indeed.

It appears that the BBC has not learnt from its past errors. What was shown on BBC 2 last Thursday, alleging ‘systematic torture’ and ‘denial of food aid’ to the supporters of the opposition was abominable, to say the least. Two Somali women (from Somalia proper) in Daado refugee camp, Ethiopia, and two Ethiopian men were presented as the victims of torture. For all we know, the two women could very well have been the victims of torture meted out by Al-Shebab. This terrorist outfit is known for its brutality and casually beheads its own citizens for trivial reasons in broad day light. It doesn’t allow people to leave the areas it controls, and anyone caught trying to escape is subjected to the most cruel and horrendous torture, according to the reports that come out regularly from that part of the world. The two Ethiopian men were interviewed in a dimly lit house, and it was evident that they were coached supporters of the opposition, presented to the gullible reporter as victims of ‘torture’. No signs of torture were shown on these guys during the program but they did show signs on one of the women, probably committed by Al-Shabab. The men were simply there to give credence to the program. What a disgraceful sham!

In any case, why were these men who were in Addis interviewed in the dark? What was the reason for covering the face of a man they interviewed somewhere in the South? Why did the reporter choose to go under cover when he could have asked the authorities for permission to film? The Ethiopian government has nothing to hide and would have responded to his claims openly. Was the reason to go under cover intended to conceal the identity of the participants so that it would be difficult to trace them and expose their white lies?

Sooner or later, the truth will come out, and once again the reputation and honor of the BBC will be in tatters. Not long ago, Human Rights Watch was humiliated for wrongly accusing the government of Ethiopia of torching houses in some parts of Ogaden. Human Rights Watch was hoodwinked by the terrorist organization Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) that massacred Ethiopia and Chinese engineers who were working in the Ogaden region only a few years ago. It turned out that the houses were burnt by the ONLF itself, which then made it look like it was carried out by Ethiopian troops. The renowned BBC has fallen prey of the same scam, this time orchestrated by Beyene Petros, Merara Gudina, Mesfin Woldemariam and the Euro MEP Anna Gomez.

The government of Ethiopia has the duty and obligation to look after the well being of its entire people irrespective of who they voted for during the general elections. Supporters of the opposition have never been denied assistance of any sort nor should they be because of their political stance. This issue of ‘favoritism’ has surfaced many times before and the ‘Donor Group’, composed of EU ambassadors and other international institutions, has investigated the matter thoroughly and found no evidence to support it. It was a simple case of malicious hearsay spread by the opposition, and should have been treated with the contempt it deserved. The BBC reporter could have checked the question of ‘favoritism’ with the British embassy in Addis Ababa, but didn’t. The intention was simply to defame the government of Ethiopia on behalf of the feeble opposition. Was the intention also to place a wedge between Ethiopia and the European Union so that developmental assistance could be terminated, and place the Growth and Transformation Plan in jeopardy?

Anna Gomez, leader of the EU election observers during the 2005 general elections, has a score to settle with the EPRDF. She was unceremoniously expelled from the country after Dr Berhanu Nega, an ex-leader of Kinijit, was found in her hotel room. She was compromised and her reputation and standing were irreparably damaged and she had to go. She still holds grudges against the EPRDF for the humiliation she suffered, and the accusations that followed from her colleagues in European parliament for bringing their respectable institution into disrepute. Any chance that comes her way to discredit the EPRDF, she grabs them with both hands with the support of her cahoots such us Ginbot 7. Her hands were clearly visible in yesterday’s BBC 2 broadcast via the dodgy ‘Bureau of Investigative Journalism’.

We also know why her old chums, Beyene Petros, Merara Gudina and Mesfin Weldmariam were actively involved in the making of the program. They have lost election after elections which they repeatedly claimed were rigged. The complete rout at the last general election was traumatic and demoralising for these senior citizens. Instead of examining their individual parties and ascertain why they were rejected by the electorates, they go for the easy option and blame the EPRDF for ‘stealing the election’. Fooling the Ethiopian people at home is no longer a possibility, but they seem to be succeeding in misleading the gullible Western Media at the present moment. Anyways, it is only the Ethiopian electorate that can give them the mandate to govern the country, and not their foreign masters. The sooner they understand this simple reality, the better. Otherwise they are destined to remain in perpetual opposition and continue to spread lies with their faces uncovered. No need to disguise themselves as freedom of expression is enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

We urge the Ethiopian government to conduct a massive diplomatic offensive to repair the damage done to the country by people like Merara Gudina, Beyene Petros and Mesfin Woldemariam. We also urge the government to lodge a formal complaint to the BBC for allowing a program about Ethiopia that was biased, partial, unbalanced, and factually inaccurate to be aired on its national TV. The deputy ambassador of Ethiopia to the United Kingdom was invited to the BBC studio for his comments, but was not allotted enough time to refute the allegations of ‘abuse and favoritism’.

The democratically elected government of Ethiopia should remain resolute and be on course to steer the country out of abject poverty. The party in power has the mandate for the next four years and must ensure the successful execution of the Growth and Transformation Plan. National parties such us the EDP need to be taken seriously and invited to contribute on big issues that have an impact on the nation. It is not only the economy that requires nurturing, but democracy and the rule of law as well.