By Professor Adugnaw Worku (24 March ’09) Have you ever wondered why dictators spend sleepless nights scheming and conniving on how to keep their people in the dark and go all out to censor magazines and newspapers, block websites, and jam radio broadcasts? The short answer is that they do so because they know the power of information and they fear their people to have such power. Dictators do two things simultaneously; they block out alternative sources of information and then engage in misinformation and disseminate pure propaganda. They exercise zero tolerance for diverse viewpoints and inconvenient truths and persecute those who bear such truths. The Bible says, “You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free”. When people are well informed and have knowledge at their disposal, they become difficult to control. And it is not by accident that dictatorial regimes target their educated citizens and harass and persecute them mercilessly until they submit, or kill them outright if they continue to resist.
I was once watching a whale and dolphin show and I heard the trainer say, “the more intelligent the animal the harder it is to train”. Animal training relies on control and behavior modification and some animals are too intelligent to submit to mindless and repetitive orders. So, the trainer resorts to tricks, bribes, and brain washing. Eventually, the animal submits and follows its trainer’s orders. Dictators use exactly the same tactics to control their citizens and add considerable coercive power to their arsenal to force compliance and submission. When tricks, bribery, and brain washing don’t work, dictators resort to blackmail, harassment, intimidation, and relentless persecution to break the individual’s God-given free will. Sadly, they often succeed and herd human beings like sheep with an iron fist.
The free flow of information and the dissemination of knowledge pose imminent danger to the power of dictators. Hence, they exercise strict monopoly of the mass media and ensure that their subjects hear and read only the officially pre-filtered propaganda. This practice is an old trick in politics and it is as if all dictators attend the same school to learn it. The technology of censorship has evolved through the years but its philosophy and practice have remained remarkably constant.
According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Napoleon Bonaparte feared the power of the pen much more than the power of the gun. Napoleon is reported to have said, “If I were to give the liberty of the press, my power could not last three days”. Matthew Lesro said, “Those who control information are the most powerful people on the planet”. Yes indeed! People who monitor, manage, and censor the contents of information have the most potent power in their hands.
My interest in this subject was triggered by a recent report in Ethiopian Review, Ethiomedia, and Ethioforum regarding the unblocking of previously blocked websites in Ethiopia. The report was too good to be true and in fact it was. Websites considered critical of the Ethiopian government were apparently blocked once again within a few days of the original report. And the information blackout in continues unabated. But if there is a will, there is a way. There is at least one technology dictators in third world countries have not been able to control yet. And that technology is television broadcasting via satellite downlink. It is estimated that there are millions of satellite dishes in Ethiopia today. And these satellite dishes are found not only in Addis Ababa but also in other cities around the country.
Apparently, our people in Ethiopia are able to watch BBC, CNN, and even Eritrean Television in the privacy of their homes. If the Ethiopian government had the capability to block satellite downlinks, they most definitely would have blocked Eritrean Television. But the simple fact is that the Ethiopian government can’t block such systems. And this brings me to the most important point of this article.
For those who may not know, there is an Ethiopian television service called Ethiopian Television Network, ETN for short. This television service is poised to play a critical role in broadcasting its programs directly to Ethiopia via satellite downlink and will do so free of charge to those in Ethiopia. It also has the capability to broadcast to a world wide Ethiopian audience using streaming technology. And anyone living anywhere can access ETN’s current and archived programs 24 hours and seven days a week using high speed Internet. This ambitious television network has multiple channels covering business news, current affairs, religious programs, documentaries, entertainment, diet and health, children’s programs, society and culture, sport, and much more. For those in the Diaspora, it is a home away from home. And for those in Ethiopia, it will be source of reliable information at no cost.
Visitors form Ethiopia and elderly parents and relatives who stay at home all alone and all day will love watching Ethiopian Television Network. They can choose the channel they want to watch and listen to the programs in their own language as well as enjoy the company of their people on TV. You have no idea what this means to them. When my aunt came to the United States, I turned ETN on for her and she was absolutely delighted. She watched the religious channels more than any other, but she also enjoyed watching drama, comedy, documentary, and music. For just US$10 a month, this is the best gift you can give to those Ethiopians in the Diaspora who stay at home alone.
As far as broadcasting to Ethiopia is concerned, here is the deal and the punch line. In order to broadcast to Ethiopia, ETN needs a minimum of 5,000 subscribers. It costs only US$10 a month to subscribe and anyone from anywhere in the world can subscribe if they have high speed Internet access. It is that simple. The technology is ready to go and the program is already in place. For further information, you may go to ouretn.com and check it out for yourself. You may also ask all the questions you have and they will be answered to your satisfaction. And the best way to do that is to contact ETN directly.
Ethiopian Television Network is an independent entity with no affiliation to any other organization, political or otherwise. Its mission is to serve Ethiopians at home and abroad by providing fair, truthful, and balanced programs. And its guiding principles are Ethiopia’s unity and the well being of all her citizens. ETN is committed to promote equality, justice, the rule of law, freedom, human rights, development, education, and much more. It will be a voice for the voiceless and a vanguard for truth against misinformation and censorship.
Finally, I would like to end with a personal note. I have subscribed to Ethiopian Television Network and I am enjoying its programs. I also contribute programs for broadcast every week and find great satisfaction in doing what I can to further the cause of our proud history, our rich culture, and enduring values. In addition, I have agreed to serve on ETN’s governing board. Before I agreed to serve on this board, I made sure that it is free from hidden agendas and divisive tactics. And to the best of my knowledge, I am glad to say that ETN is independent and transparent and has no strings attached to a third party behind the scene. I joined the board determined to contribute to the fulfillment of its lofty and worthy goals.
I would like to invite you to subscribe and make it a robust television service for us and for our children. This television network relies primarily on subscriptions and advertisements and the Diaspora Ethiopian community can play a pivotal role to make it successful and accessible to our people in Ethiopia. I and other board members are willing to answer any questions from anyone and answer them truthfully and completely. The bottom line is this: There is no hidden agenda or mysterious motive other than the desire to provide badly needed service whose time has come. Television is a powerful tool and we have it now. No human organization is perfect and ETN is no exception. But it is an organization that is willing to learn and grow. And together, we can make it strong and vibrant to make a difference.
Let us empower our people with free, fair, and reliable information and stand with them in their fight for freedom and justice. Two hundred years ago, the founders of the United States of America encapsulated what every human being feels and believes deep in his/her heart by saying, “We take these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” May God grasp Ethiopia’s outstretched hand and grant her better days ahead so that all her children will be able to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
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