The EPLF Paltalk Vision Room is a cyber-linked social media platform where Eritreans in different countries connect. The cyber platform was created by Eritreans with the purpose of fighting biased information about Eritrea on the Internet. With the number of followers rising every day, the page has become a debate hub for many Eritreans discussing several national issues. All members use nicknames. They don’t know each other. What impresses one the most is the fact that funds, amounting to thousands of Dollars, are raised by this group to augment endowments such as Martyrs’ Trust fund. Q&A chose to shed some light on the level of trust members of the EPLF Paltalk Vision Room have towards one another and how they use the social media platform to spread Eritrean patriotic values.
We talk to a member of the group, Mr. Habteyesus Kileyesus, resident of California.
- How was the EPLF Vision Room founded?
It was founded some four years ago by interested Eritreans who couldn’t tolerate the false and inaccurate narratives about Eritrea spread on the Internet and international media outlets.
Through the website we all do our part in combating the false narratives. All the members engage in combatting false news about Eritrea, each in his or her own way. But the most important thing is that our page is updated every twenty four hours and seven times a week. It is a platform in which we all do our part in combating wrong information on the net. Moreover, we enrich ourselves with knowledge in order to give viable reposes to questions raised about Eritrea.
Our vision is to protect people from feeding on one-sided and biased information about Eritrea; we aim at giving alternative account of Eritrea and on-going happenings within the homeland. Furthermore, beyond fighting the hollow narratives on Eritrea and its people, members of the room started campaigning to gather support for Eritrean civilians, be it war disabled veterans, families of martyrs or others.
- How does your cyber group function?
We have administrators and super administrators. They supervise the website, yet it is an open platform. All of the members have nicknames. We don’t use the platform to point fingers or criticize people’s opinions. Opinions are respected and anyone can comment as he or she wishes. However, the responses are given accordingly. Like I said, none of us have met so far and we don’t use our given names, so the administrators supervise the technicality of the responses given to personal questions or responses given to news or information told about Eritrea. Our aim is to fight information by information. The page has some strong regulations that safeguard the dignity of the Eritrean people. Insults are not allowed. There is freedom and anyone is entitled to say whatsoever; however, blasphemy and disregard of societal values of Eritreans are unacceptable. The page was not made for people to point fingers but to share information. People who do not respect the page’s regulations are blocked from having access to the page. People are allowed to agree or disagree on all points of discussion. Debates are held and information is shared on government policies and the government’s endeavors; but disrespect is not tolerated.
- This would be only one part of your activity. Your group also conducts campaigns to raise funds and extend a helping hand to war veterans, families of martyrs and the needy. Tell us, please, about this part of your undertakings?
We contribute monetarily. We raise funds and help members of our community in Eritrea. For example, the 100,000 USD we recently gathered was donated to disabled war veterans. A group of Eritreans in Oakland had been involved in raising funds for war veterans for a while. We then talked to the web’s administrators and agreed to use the paltalk as a wider platform to raise funds. As a result, we were able to raise 100,000 USD for the purpose. But this is not the first time we’re joining hands. Annually, on the occasion of the Eritrean Martyrs Day, we make contributions to augment the martyr’s trust fund to support families of martyrs, and this idea was raised on our pal-talk group. Moreover, whenever we see posts of individuals in need on social media or their stories covered on TV, we come together and help with the little we have. When we heard about an Eritrean mother, Askalu, a war veteran herself, who takes care of two war disabled veterans, we raised 11,000 USD. For our Eritrean brother, Saleh, we raised 17,000 USD that he received through the National Bank. Helping compatriots in need is a typical Eritrean trait.
- It is amazing that all of you Eritreans on the paltalk have no personal knowledge of one another. Yet how are you able to engage in a debate, agreeing and disagreeing, on government’s policies and then collectively raise funds to give a helping hand to Eritreans in need?
You are right. Our opinions are dissimilar. Some are happy, some not. However, we are Eritreans and what Eritreans do best is stand up for their people and our country. When raising funds we discuss a purpose. For example, helping war veterans, we all know, is our duty. Helping Eritrean brothers and sisters, that too, is our duty. Looking out for families of martyrs who fell for our country, isn’t that our responsibility too? It is indeed. It is how Eritreans are; no matter what home is home.
- How can you trust the Internet? People don’t even know who is running the web. It is natural for people to think of it as a scam but in your cyber group people trust the paltalk with their money.
We, our people, trust each other. No Eritrean would cheat in the name of martyrs and war veterans. Of course, there is a system implemented through which we make sure people receive receipts of their contribution and later when the fund reaches the destination in the homeland, Eritrean media outlets cover the stories.
- Do you plan on meeting and introducing yourselves to each other?
So far, there are no plans that I know of.
- Thank you for your time, Mr. Habteyesus, and best of luck to EPLF Vision Room!