In connection with the recent violence that erupted following the killing of Hachalu Hundessa in the capital Addis Ababa, two satellite television service providers, which are widely-used in Ethiopia, Eutelsat and DSTV have taken measures to block two Ethiopian broadcasters, Tigrai TV and Dimtsi Woyane TV, this week.
These measures followed successive raids conducted on the Addis Ababa offices of the Oromo Media Network (OMN), Asrat Media and Dimtsi Woyane TV stations last week, as part of the investigation into what the Attorney General described as an organized crime, which sought to ignite ethnic violence in the country.
According to investigators’ working theory, Hachalu has fallen victim to a plot that involved a media campaign pitting the two populous ethnic groups in Ethiopia against one-another and which was expected to erupt on the event of Hachalu’s killing. This, of course, has to be proved in a court of law, to which the prosecutors are claiming to have ample evidence already.
It not only the reporting prior to the incident but, the coverage of the killing of Hachalu and funeral procession which were broadcast live on both TVs and many more stations in the country. Apparently, both Tigrai-based stations were connected to the feed being broadcasted by OMN, which has now ceased operations from within Ethiopia.
The blocking by Eutelsat, operated by a French company on an Egyptian satellite leased for the services, which is also the provider that is hosting most of the Ethiopian-based networks, came as a surprise to the two broadcasters, according to BBC Amharic service. Furthermore, BBC’s reporting claims that the two broadcasters did not receive any formal notice about the action either from Eutelsat or the local coordinator Association of Ethiopian Broadcasters. The Association coordinates the various broadcasters based in Ethiopia to access the services and effect the payment as a group.
According to the BBC, individual efforts by the two broadcasters to contact the French provider has revealed that company has acted on direction of the French government, which in turn was contacted by authorities in Ethiopia. They also told the BBC that the provider will not grant them access until they solve their issues locally; “Talk to your government,” one of officials described what the provider said to them.
Meanwhile, the other satellite provider DSTV has also shown a “this channel is blocked…” sign on a channel previously occupied by Tigray TV and indicated that the blocking is valid for eight days.
This is not apparently new to Ethiopia; previously a number of radio, TV and websites has been jammed, blocked and denied access to the local audience. But, the recent measures are slightly different since the broadcasters were not intercepted but removed by the provider companies.