2 Thorpe Close, Ladbroke Grove, London, W10 5XL
3 May 2021
Mr Tim Davie
BBC Director-General, Broadcasting House, London, W1A 1AA
Dear Mr Davie,
I was pleased and re-assured to see your statement marking World Press Freedom Day (BBC boss warns of ‘growing assault on truth’ around the world (yahoo.com). You are absolutely right to draw attention to the fact that journalists across the globe face “intimidation, harassment and hostility”. I agree with your assessment that “Trusted information is an essential public good, but many journalists around the world – including those from the BBC – are facing intimidation, harassment and hostility. Some even face threats to their lives and liberty.”
You will no doubt be aware that the people of Eritrea face the worst restrictions on their access to information in the world. This is recorded by the index produced by Reporters Without Borders, which shows Eritrea as even more repressive than North Korea (2020 World Press Freedom Index | RSF).
The people of Eritrea have relied on the BBC for accurate news and information ever since the 1960’s when they began their fight for independence. We had assumed that our nation would have an open media landscape when it achieved its independence in 1993. Sadly, this was not to be and the dictatorship that our people live under restricts the activities of its own journalists as well as visiting reporters. There is no independent media of any kind based in Eritrea. It is one of the few nations in which the BBC – along with other international media houses – has no resident correspondent or reporter.
No other nation or people have a greater need for the BBC’s accurate and reliable news. It is for this reason that I am calling on the BBC to make a commitment to make a particular effort to report about and to Eritrea. We welcomed the BBC’s recent broadcasts in Tigrinya and our people listen and watch the BBC keenly. But there is room for a greater concentration of BBC journalism on Eritrea – particularly since its forces are involved in the tragic war in Ethiopia, and its troops are accused of some of the worst abuses, including the rape of girls and women.
I offer to meet you and your colleagues in the next few weeks to discuss how the BBC’s work can be augmented. This is an extraordinary situation and requires an extraordinary response.
Chairman, Eritrea Focus