The Guardian’s Incurable Obsession with Eritrea

News Opinions Sophia Tesfamariam
The guardian dishonest reporting award 2011
If Eritreans were to be polled today, they too would vote overwhelmingly for the Guardian to receive the 2015 most Dishonest Reporting Award.

By Sophia Tesfamariam,

This week, the Guardian has been running a series on Eritrea -“Inside Eritrea”. This is really a misnomer. The series should have appeared under the more apt title:“Outside Eritrea”. The contents had very little to present about the chosen topic; except to rehash old and tired narratives on Eritrea weaved externally. When the Guardian first announced that it was interested in gathering material on Eritrea, there were some naive individuals who were only too happy to oblige and participate in the string along. But it was only a matter of days into the series.

The Guardian’s agenda soon unraveled as it had done nothing more than present as new, old reports on Eritrea, albeit, this time producing the original sources, at least names of individuals that certain phrases could be attributed to-unknown to the majority of Eritreans but known in the “network” that includes runaway “journalists”, disgruntled defectors and runaway draft dodgers as well as some self-proclaimed “intellectuals”, self-appointed “human rights” and “democracy” activists.

The Guardian’s highly tendentious hodge-podge set of articles, touching on almost every aspect of Eritrean society, make sweeping generalizations and unsubstantiated, not to mention contemptuous, statements about the nation and its people.

The series seeks to promote a fundamental political bias against the State of Eritrea and its leadership, and does nothing to improve the reader’s’ knowledge about Eritrea, its rich history and exemplary culture of ethnic and religious respect and tolerance, and most importantly, the unity of its people, which has come under targeted attack by various members of the “network” in the last 15 years.

Its coverage on Eritrea’s economic, social and political policies based on dubious accounts promote an agenda that exploits a façade of legal, political and military analysis, areas where the Guardian and its sources, sorely lack capacity and knowledge in order to render justice to the Eritrean experience and reality. Its repeated use of emotional narratives extracted from asylum seekers and desperate refugees, and subjective political remarks suggest the Guardian’s destructive agenda. Its misguided conclusions and reliance on “research” by some of the most unreliable, biased, individuals and groups-cloaked under the cover of “NGOs” will also not advance or deepen knowledge of Eritrea’s nation building priorities or, the cause of peace, stability and security in the Horn region.

The Guardian insists on quoting UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and other “UN” related entities, which often in turn cite the same unreliable politically motivated individuals, who seem to have some personal ax to grind, and worse, the Guardian inputs views and self-serving reports of the minority regime in Ethiopia which have no relevance on issues relating to Eritrea and its people, as it is its violation of international law, and its 13-year long occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories in contravention of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s (EEBC) final and binding delimitation and demarcation decisions, that are the root cause of all the issues raised by the Guardian.

One of the issues that is a staple in almost all of the Guardian’s frenzied pieces is the National Service Program in Eritrea. Notwithstanding the fact that the Program is grossly misrepresented and maligned, it is the Guardian’s obsession and underlying motives that need further scrutiny. The National Service Program and the Warsay-Yikaalo Program for Development are, in fact, major contributing factors to the attainment of the much sought after social capital needed to boost development in Africa, and one that Eritrea has managed to harness in earnest since independence.

From Eritrea’s notable successes such as the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals, impressive infrastructure developments that include several big dams and other water conservation projects, extensive deforestation programs, building of the education and health infrastructures throughout the country, the establishment of a state of the art mining operation have contributed to Eritrea’s internal capacity required for a self-reliant and sustainable development strategy. The education and training of all its citizens, the provision of healthcare for all, the eradication of malaria and other diseases is not achieved on a whim, but on a sound and prudent strategy and the National Service Program is at the root of all of Eritrea’s goals for a developed nation where the citizens can be beneficiaries of the nation’s resources.

Only the naïve would believe all this attention on Eritrea stems from concern about Eritrea and its people. If the Guardian and its sponsors cared so much about the people of Eritrea, they would first call on the international community to end the unjust and illegal US & Ethiopia engineered sanctions, and call on the Security Council to fulfill its legal and moral obligations and restore Eritrea’s sovereignty, by ending Ethiopia’s occupation. In addition, the Guardian should also call on the United Nations to respond to Eritrea’s repeated requests for an independent investigation on the trafficking of Eritrea’s youth and the role of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), neighboring states, the various “refugee and asylum” agencies that have propped up in western capitals, obviously capitalizing on the influx and the massive funding allotted to support their newly discovered lucrative enterprises.

Finally, the Guardian can investigate western asylum policies that lure youth from the region, and the debilitating welfare package, that portend to be generous, but are in all honesty, paralyzing and promote a life of perpetual dependence. For most who have taken the bait, the loneliness that comes with the separation, the alienation in cultures so different from that of their own, and the constant need to remain compliant with welfare requirements have contributed to the depression and other psychological problems that compound their already precarious state of mind.

Not sure if the Guardian will be winning any awards this year, but as it did in 2011, this series on Eritrea will place it in first place for the 2015 “Dishonest Reporting Award” in Eritrea’s version of, a site dedicated to “Defending Israel from Media Bias”. In its section on principles and values, the site states that it expects the State of Israel to get fair treatment by the world press, according to the same standards applied to any other country. It says:

“…Since public opinion is significantly shaped by media coverage … biased coverage of Israel distorts the public’s understanding of Israel and its motives and that they believe people have as much right to criticize Israel as any other state.

However, when criticism turns to demonization or delegitimization, it is no longer legitimate criticism…believe that the media must be accurate, balanced, transparent, and ethical. Journalists, editors, and publishers must be held accountable for slanted coverage of Israel … believe that failure to provide proper context distorts an understanding of motives behind the actions described in the news… believe that news articles that quote sources that criticize Israel without also quoting sources that defend Israel are inherently biased … believe the use of photos must not distort the situation in the eye of the average reader or falsely evoke an emotional response through staging or selective cropping…”

Ditto for Eritrea…

In 2011, the site awarded The Guardian its “Dishonest Reporting Award”. According to the site, the Guardian’s win, “was a landslide”. Honest Reporting readers were asked to choose the 2011 Dishonest Reporting Award, and according to the site, “they spoke out — with a vengeance”.

If Eritreans were to be polled today, they too would vote overwhelmingly for the Guardian to receive the 2015 Award.