„Assena Satellite TV, produced by the seasoned and vibrant journalist Mr. Amanuel Eyasu, is the First Opposition Satellite TV to make a Breakthrough into the Eritrean Airspace, and the region. Mr. Eyasu, former fighter in the struggle for Independence of Eritrea himself, has an extensive journalistic experience. At some stage – before his exile to the UK – he was employed at the Only National Media in the country. Mr. Eyasu is known for expressing criticism of the Eritrean Government, such is the new Satellite TV – Assena – orientation. The TV is Donor Funded, ordinary Eritreans in diaspora are making it their mission to commit to a monthly fund, that would in turn enable them to communicate with their people inside their country.
Eritrean People have now an Alternate TV channel – the First for an Independent Eritrea. Even though the shows are short at the moment – hourly content – Eritrean people are tuning in, in masses. People discuss Assena episodes casually at caffe’s in the lively Harnet Avenue of Asmara.
Assena TV now airs everything but Government content. Coincided with the ongoing “Enough!” Campaign for reform by diaspora Eritreans, Assena TV found itself broadcasting the Campaign extensively. People inside Eritrea had a different perception of the Eritrean Opposition groups outside Eritrea. People have been deliberately misinformed to think the oppositions were comprised of old men of ‘grudges’. When Assena started broadcasting the “Enough!” Campaign videos and contents, that started changing the Eritrean people’s perception about the opposition. They could see their young sons and daughters, conveying a message for reform and solidarity with the people inside the country.
Sources told Eritrea Watch the Satellite Dish sales inside Eritrea have grown dramatically since the launch of Assena TV and anticipation of another Satellite TV, to be launched soon. Eritrea Watch’s attempt to get the estimated viewership has been futile, owing to the difficulty of gathering data and secretive nature of the Government in power.
Eritrea Watch wishes to compile another report when another Satellite TV launches its first broadcast. ERISAT, a new Satellite TV have issued a statement, that they are to start broadcasting to Eritrea on April the 1st, 2019. The channel did not explain the said ‘delay’ in launching the Satellite TV.
Assena TV coverage has grown rapidly and extensively, since its inception in January 2019. Eritrea Watch set on testing these claims, contacted people inside Eritrea – different parts of the country and different age groups.
Of the general sentiment and opinion are Excitement and Joy at the idea of having a New Alternate TV channel. The Satetllite TV is now viewed by people from Tesenei and Barentu (West of the country), Mendefera and Segeneyti (in the south), Keren (in the North) and Asmara the capital city.
The National TV has dominated the Eritrean Airspace for the last 25 years, in a clear rejection to its content, people claim they would switch to Ethiopian Channels as soon as Assena shows finish.
Many contacted were unable to hide their excitement. Yohanes (not real name), 17 from Asmara, claims that “no one is really watching ERI-TV anymore. We are so exited we have another channel now, a better one (sic)”.
An exiled opposition member commends the idea of having another channel, and bemoans the opposition group’s failure to come up with the same idea years before. “What we opposition groups failed to do, ordinary citizens are doing. The Eritrean government, for years, has denied people their right to Information. The National TV, is just a propaganda tool for the only Party in the country. People could now realize.” Asked what this would mean for the many opposition groups in exile, he explains “ The Eritrean Government declares to the world that it does not have any opposition groups – it has never recognised any. To the Eritrean people, it conveys a message the opposition groups are terrorists, killers and they would bring chaos and civil war, if in power. It has been spreading fear in the general public. The new channels would change all that perception.”
Mrs. Makda (not real name) 27, from Senafe, claims to have seen her brother on one of Assena TV broadcasts. Her brother is a refugee in Germany, she saw him participating in the Peaceful Demonstration held in Geneva, Switzerland. She states, “ Joy ,Joyful, My brother left Eritrea seven years ago, I miss him! I could not believe my eyes when I saw him on TV! Now I watch Assena TV every day hoping I catch the repeat.”
One Elderly gentleman from Asmara, seems to agree with the general sentiment. “We are very excited! We want more!” People inside the country are bemoaning the fact the shows are short, “ If only it has more content, and less of songs.” He adds. Seeing that Assena TV is only few months in operation, his criticism is meant to be constructive and valid at the same time.
Eritrea & Freedom Of Expression:
Eritrean Government has a blanket ban on All Independent Media inside the country. There are currently only two (2) Media outlets on Eritrea’s Airspace – the National Radio and Television programs, Government controlled and narrated.
When Eritreans started enjoying the First of their free Independent Newspapers in the late 1990’s – the First Ever for Post Independent Eritrea – the Government seemed to enjoy it less. The Government in 2001, would respond by Shutting down all the Newspapers and arresting ALL its journalists. Sadly, 18 years later, those journalists continue to languish in detentions – without A day in court, held Incommunicado. This despite the pleas and pressure from their families, the public and International Human Rights Organizations.
The Government in Eritrea is a One Party regime. It has never conducted an election, and Never allows any Opposition Party – or it’s media – inside the country. Eritrean opposition groups have been forced to dig deep – in creative ideas and financially – should they wish to broadcast to Eritrean people inside the country. Albeit, from Abroad.
Anonymous sources, close to the Ministry of Information have explained that the Government in Eritrea seems to have panicked on the emergence of these new TV channels. In December, 2018, the Government set up a Task Team to specifically to deal with these issues. A Special meeting was held at the Ministry of Information offices, comprising many different security apparatus in the country. The sources claim to have knowledge of the participants and their resolution. Representatives from the President’s office, the National Security, seasoned journalists at the Ministry of Information were said to have attended the meeting. Among the resolutions reached were; to spread fear to public from watching the TV’s and Jamming the airwaves to disrupt the shows. Interestingly, they are said to have asked the Ethiopian Counter Intelligence Agency to assist in the matter.“
An article by Eritrea Watch