his cable contains an action request.
See paragraph
SUMMARY: On November 8, Charge d'Affaires met with local and London-based Voice of America correspondents. She used the meeting to discuss U.S. policy regarding Ethiopia, the role the VOA is playing in Ethiopia at a time when its listenership is likely at record levels, and Government of Ethiopia concerns regarding the objectivity of the VOA amharic service. She provided them with background information on the country's evolving political situation and a brief on-the-record quote. Government of Ethiopia unhappiness with the VOA Amharic service is well known and increasingly loudly expressed — and now threatens to result in the loss of vital coverage to Ethiopians. The most recent flare-up in GOE anger at VOA results from a VOA bulletin that calls for a stay-at-home strike and asks security forces to refuse to follow orders. Post requests confirmation on whether this item did in fact run on VOA and if so, please provide guidance on how to respond. An independent analysis of VOA's Amharic reporting is badly needed in order to respond to GOE concerns and ensure that VOA is not jammed or receives interference. END SUMMARY.

¶3. On November 8, Charge met with London-based VOA English
service correspondent Michael Drudge, along with local
stringers Iskender Firew and Meleskachew Amaha (the latter
still wearing bandages as a result of an October 26 beating
by unidentified assailants). Joining the meeting were the
Embassy's A/DCM, PA Counselor, IO, PolOff, and FSN
Information Specialist.

¶4. Charge welcomed the journalists and consoled Meleskachew
on his injuries, telling him she had raised her concerns
about his assault with the Government. She noted the very
real need for VOA reporting at a time when Ethiopians are
unable to hear other independent voices — and that both the
Ethiopian people and the government were listening. She
expressed hope that, as a part of the U.S. Government, VOA
would be sensitive to U.S. policy issues and uphold its
history of fair and balanced reporting. Referring to
unconfirmed reports that the Government of Ethiopia may be
attempting to interfere with the reception of VOA, she noted
that, if true, it was a sign of how seriously VOA's
reporting is taken. She cited a recent specific GOE
complaint (see below) and used it as an example of how
perceived bias can further impede the relationship between
the GOE and VOA. [NOTE: Since November 7, VOA reception in
Ethiopia has been increasingly unintelligible because of an
overlay to its frequency of Government-owned Radio Fana,
which has successfully reduced VOA's ability to be heard.

¶5. Noting that she was well aware of the GOE's blanket
reluctance to interact directly with the Amharic service,
the Charge said that it was still possible to report on
known GOE positions and important to present as broad a
spectrum of opinion as possible. COMMENT: One of the
problems is that VOA provides more news about the opposition
and its activities than any other news. Even if VOA does
not report GOE views, it could provide more news about other
events in the country. END COMMENT.

¶6. During a lively and positive Q&A, the Charge drew on
points presented to international correspondents at a
background briefing earlier in the day to explain U.S.
policy on the current situation. She described Ethiopia's
current political situation and outlined the role the U.S.
and the broader international community are playing to
resolve the crisis and re-focus all sides on moving forward,
including the November 6 joint EU/U.S. statement. She
recapped what had taken place since internationally brokered
negotiations began in early October (and subsequently ended)
and noted her optimism that progress was still possible.
She said that dialogue — and a democratic future — is not
possible without renunciation of violence and cooperation
between the government and the opposition.

¶7. She called for the VOA's help in focusing on the way
forward, citing the absence of other voices and Ethiopians'
always keen and increasing interest in VOA reporting
guarantee it a crucial place in getting balanced, accurate
information to them.


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