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Dimtsi Hafash: Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea

By Habtom Tesfamichael

Radio Dimtsi Hafash celebrated its 42nd birthday yesterday. It was established as a clandestine broadcaster at a critical time on January 1, 1979, following the strategic withdrawal of Eritrea’s freedom fighters in 1978.

At that time, the propaganda machine of the Dergue used the situation to stifle the public support to the just cause of the revolution and struggle for independence. The Ethiopian regime and other reactionary elements stepped up their slanderous campaign against the Eritrean people’s struggle in an attempt to isolate the Eritrean people and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) through news blackouts, lies, slanders and distortions. The EPLF felt the need for the establishment of a radio station in the liberated area to combat and expose these campaigns. Radio Dimtsi Hafash emerged as a beacon of hope and a primary tool for spreading the truth about the Eritrean revolution.

Dimtsi Hafash was essential for the struggle in raising awareness of the people and informing them about the progress of the struggle. Thus, the establishment of Dimtsi Hafash came at a critical juncture of the armed struggle and helped raise the morale of the people and the fighters. Eritreans all over the world had contributed toward launching the radio station by raising fund and giving technical support.

Dimtsi Hafash started its broadcasting service in the two working languages of Eritrea, Tigrigna and Arabic. It later added service in other Eritrean languages, Afar, Tigre, Kunama, and the official language of Ethiopia, Amharic. In the years between 1998 and 2000 it started broadcasting in Blin, Saho, Nara and Bidwyaat, and today, it broadcasts in all Eritrea’s nine languages.

Dimtsi Hafash aims at disseminating timely, responsible and credible information to the public, promoting public debate and discussion, enhancing cultural values and traditions, enlightening and entertaining the public, and strengthening national unity. It has made significant contribution in facilitating the cultural integration of the Eritrean people. It was particularly important in mobilizing the society to participate in the armed struggle for independence.

Today, through its satellite broadcasts Dimtsi Hafash can reach millions across the world and is playing an important role in Eritrea’s social, economic and political development. Successive colonialists, suppressed Eritrean cultures and languages. Eritrea’s history was deliberately distorted to enable Ethiopia’s annexation. Therefore, in addition to fighting for Eritrea’s independence, the EPLF also worked to revive and preserve Eritrea’s cultures and languages, where the radio played and continues to play a significant role in that endeavor.

In addition to its frequent bombings, the Ethiopian Dergue regime, which was armed with surveillance and jamming technologies, also tried all it could to disrupt Dimtsi Hafash’s broadcasts, but without success. It also tried to cut the EPLF’s efforts to communicate with the people by making it punishable to listen to the radio. But, Dimtsi Hafash continued broadcasting by moving from one place to another to escape the bombardment and by changing its broadcasting frequency as a technical solution to the jamming. It was first established in Fah, and then moved to Anberbeb, and from there to Arag and then back to Anberbeb before it was finally set up in Shabait, its location until Eritrea was liberated in May 1991.

During the early years of its establishment, its limited equipment and the workload made the job very challenging. The work environment was difficult as Dimtsi Hafash had to move from place to place and had to be set up in hidden places and bunkers to avoid getting detected by the enemy. However, the determination and commitment of the fighters made it possible to continue its airing.

In an attempt to modernize Dimtsi Hafash and expand its coverage area, new transmitters were installed in Asha-Golgol and Selae- Daero in 1998 and 2000.

Today, after 42 years, Dimtsi Hafash has developed into a modern media outlet, broadcasting in all Eritrean languages as well as Amharic and Oromiffa, which are broadcast in short and middle waves, and by satellite to reach millions of people all over the world.

Dimtsi Hafash joined the social media 22 years ago, in 1998, and started airing its programs through satellite in 2003. In 2010, it digitalized all its systems to join the world stage. It broadened its service through FM, with Radio Zara, in 2001 and with Radio Numa in 2010.

In its 42 years of operation, a number of its audience members have become chief contributors and enabled it to broadcast on a variety of topics. In all of the languages it broadcasts, its permanent staff, contributors and the wider public who engage through direct telephone lines, helped it to enrich its programs and become competitive with other broadcasting stations.

As it did during the struggle for independence, in this age of information, Dimtsi Hafash is doing its share to protect Eritrea’s sovereignty and help develop the nation. In the current crisis caused by covid-19, Dimtsi Hafash has been an essential medium that keeps the public informed, especially the rural communities. It is providing up-to-date information about the pandemic and help clear up doubts people have about the disease by dedicating special programs to the pandemic and its effects.

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