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Misrepresentation of facts by The Guardian regarding Andargachew Tsige


By Bereket Gebru
Tigrai Onlne - July 23, 2014

Ever since the arrest of Andargachew Tsige, the Chairman of Ginbot 7, a couple of weeks ago, the topic has been widely discussed in both national and international media. Rather surprisingly, the main talking point has emerged to be on whether the British would have Andargachew released or not as he is a British Passport holder.

Such naive contentions commonly make up conversations between friends over beer and definitely not on media outlets with a reputation to protect. The 4 July, 2014 report by Martin Plaut on the website of The Guardian was, however, marred with bold misrepresentation and intentional omission of facts besides its shallow grasp of the whole issue. The fact that the article managed to make it into The Guardian’s reading reflects poorly on the quality of reporters the guardian has, its editorial staff, other stories the media outlet reports on and the establishment as a whole.

The first of the wrongly presented facts in the news article by Martin Plaut entitled “UK stands accused over extradition of Ethiopian opposition leader” states "the British knew he was being held in Yemen for almost a week but they did nothing," The fact, however, is that Andargachew Tsige was extradited to Yemen the day he was arrested. The statement from the Information and National Security Agency of Ethiopia clearly shows that Ethiopian Intelligence personnel had prior knowledge of Andargachew’s planned trip to Eritrea via Yemen and invoked the extradition of terrorists deal between the two countries to have him apprehended and flown back to Ethiopia the same day.

Instead of checking on the facts before interviewing the spokesperson of Ginbot 7, The Guardian journalist took his words for granted. With that sort of reporting, it is a wonder that The Guardian is considered one of the main news sources internationally.

Another intentional misrepresentation of facts by the writer has to do with the description of Ginbot 7. The article states: “Ginbot 7 is among the largest of Ethiopia's exiled opposition movements. The party was founded by Berhanu Nega, who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005. Refusing to accept the result, the prime minister, Meles Zenawi, declared a state of emergency, which was followed by days of protest and clashes on the streets of the capital.”

As accurately put in the article, Ginbot 7 was established by Berhanu Nega – the mayor elect of Addis Ababa in the 2005 election. Contrary to the reality, however, the article claims that the then Prime Minister Meles Zenawi refused to accept the result. In what can be taken as a bizarre twist in the history of elections in general, however, Berhanu Nega’s then party Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) boycotted the results and refused to accept the chance to administer the capital city and take up its seats in the parliament despite the incumbent party’s admission of defeat.

Instead, the party resorted to inciting clashes on the streets of the capital as a viable way of addressing its claims of vote rigging in other parts of the country. During those days, the party officially refused to take up the Addis Ababa City Council’s seats along with its seats in the House of People’s Representatives. The party’s bizarre move at the time can be explained by their flawed understanding that they could lead the people into a successful popular protest that culminates in the overthrow of the government. They gambled with popular votes that granted them power at local government level but ended up disappointing their power base by throwing it away in their faces.

The CUD incited the city riots that followed in Addis despite the government repeatedly expressing that the CUD was victorious. Considering the moment was an opportune one, they used their political clout in the capital as a spring board to assume state power through a popular protest. Once the voice of reason prevailed again, the leaders of CUD were not going to evade justice. Accordingly, they were tried and convicted in a court of law before they were pardoned later to promote democratic political competition.

Upon his release, Berhanu Nega left the country and openly stated that he has decided to adopt armed struggle as a way of fighting the incumbent party. Subsequently, he founded Ginbot 7 - an armed group based in Eritrea with the aim of overthrowing the Ethiopian government through military means.  

Founders of Ginbot 7 willfully left the country to pursue their goal of building an army intending to forcefully overthrow the government. Of course they could not have built an army and walked amongst the public as law abiding citizens, since the act is illegal besides contravening the basic principle of monopoly of military power by the state. Considering the founders of Ginbot 7 stumped on peaceful means of assuming state power in favor of establishing a foreign based armed struggle on their own terms, referring to the group as “exiled” gives out the wrong impression.

The news article also states that “the Eritrean authorities host a number of exiled Ethiopian movements, including some attempting to overthrow the Ethiopian government.” Despite Ginbot 7’s stand and action of using armed struggle to potentially overthrow the government, the article falls short of stating whether the group belongs to those attempting to overthrow the government or not. That obviously shows the intent of the reporter to withhold relevant information from readers.

On the contrary, the article goes out of its way to portray the group as a peaceful one in stating “the party says it stands for the peaceful end to what it describes as the Ethiopian dictatorship”. Far from the fact that the group has organized an army in Eritrea to fight against the Ethiopian government, the reporter once again opts to resort to hear-say.

Yet another one of the intentional omission of facts by The Guardian was the statement: “Andargachew was travelling to Eritrea, which has clashed with Ethiopia since a border war between the two countries ended in June 2000.” The article once again intentionally holds back information by omitting the purpose of his trip. As Secretary-general of Ginbot 7, Andargachew Tsige made regular trips to Eritrea to get a first-hand look at the army he is building there and confer with Eritrean authorities on their joint mission to destabilize Ethiopia.

Instead of providing the whole information, however, The Guardian intentionally omitted some part of the truth to portray Andargachew Tsige, a British passport holder, and the armed group he leads, Ginbot 7, as peaceful opposition to the Ethiopian government.

The article finally refers to the letter by Ana Gomes to wrap up the real message it wants to send out. It states: “Ana Gomes, a Portuguese member of the European parliament who led the EU observer mission to the 2005 Ethiopian elections, has written to William Hague, calling on the UK foreign secretary to intervene on Andargachew's behalf, saying: "I urge you now to do the utmost to ensure his release and protection and his return to the United Kingdom as soon as possible."

Ever since the 2005 elections, Ana Gomes has consistently aligned herself with a few opposition political personnel. The European Parliament member is known for her obsession with Ethiopian political conditions with a staunch support for those who believe in war as a means of changing the government.

Her treatment of Ethiopian political conditions as an indulgence is rather the cause for her hostility towards the Ethiopian government than the responsibilities accorded to her by Portuguese and European constituents. Therefore, despite the strong going relations between Portugal and Europe with Ethiopia, Ana Gomes conducts herself a long way from diplomatic manners as she considers Ethiopian politics a personal indulgence.

Ana Gomes’ call for the release and return of Andargachew Tsige to the United Kingdom is consistent with her past allegiance to proponents of war. Despite the fact that the member of European Parliament knows Andargachew liaisons with Eritrean authorities to organize an attack against Ethiopia, she has chosen to boldly stand behind him.

Her request, on the other hand, is a reflection of her naivety. In line with all those who do not have a clear picture of what the convicted criminal, Andargachew Tsige, has chosen for a path by building an army to fight the Ethiopian government, Ana Gomes has associated the issue with nationality and passport status. By building an army aimed at toppling the Ethiopian government through armed struggle, Andargachew Tsige has declared war against the government.

Whether Ethiopian, British or Martian, that makes him enemy of the Ethiopian state. That means he should know better than falling into the hands of Ethiopian intelligence and security forces. Accordingly, he has been doing that by avoiding entry into Ethiopia. However, if the Ethiopian authorities manage to get him under their custody, squealing about his release would be silly as the rules of war are much more serious than a child’s play. It would not also make sense for the Ethiopian government to release the leader of an armed group working against it while it is working to avert the potential danger the group poses.

The news article by The Guardian, as shown above, has intentionally omitted some facts while misrepresenting others to depict a leader of an armed group bearing a British passport as innocent and peaceful. By doing so, it has transgressed against the journalistic principles of objectivity and serving the truth.