By Daniel Wedi Korbaria,
In twenty years in Italy, I have read piles of newspapers furnished with the lies of journalists. In twenty years I have learned to recognize them, I know how they work, to daily hammer anyone ending targeted by the US. At the end of the 1990s the target was Milosevic preceding NATO bombs on Belgrade. Then came Saddam’s turn, alleged of killing his own people. The allegations were tales of oppressed civilians, who were dying under his claws due to hardships and lack of freedom. However, interestingly, all the newspapers seemingly caring for the Iraqi people failed to write about the “collateral damages” suffered by the civilian population due to US sanctions and the embargo of medicines.
I recall then that Italian public opinion supported the US lead which started to bomb Iraq in 2003. “It’s about time” said those who had learned to recognize Saddam as the embodiment of the devil. They were all bold and satisfied about the military attack, so that he – public enemy number one – would never again use those weapons of mass destruction, which journalists had widely covered, convincing public opinion of their existence.
In February that year there were very few of us in San Giovanni Square in Rome protesting against the war in Iraq; there were not enough pacifists to stop that damned war.
The movie plot
The work of journalists and activists of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) provokes an international reaction, demonstrations in the squares for human rights, urging the “humanitarian intervention” of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meetings, and at the same time, an extraordinary meeting of NATO, military escalation and the roaring of engines of the airplanes taking off loaded with “democratic” bombs.
After that the bombs of liberty, justice and respect for human rights fall by the thousands. This is the war of democracy against the regime. Bombs kill women and children, provoking the exodus of thousands of refugees, the setting up of tent cities for refugees and the proliferation of NGOs, who manage the refugee camps. It’s the same story all over again.
This is my question to the spectators: “Why do you want to watch a movie when you already know how it ends, having seen it many times over in recent world history? Do you still want to pay for your ticket?” The spectators respond: Yes, and there’s a queue at the box office!
Who will be the main character this time? Next! Iran? Or Pakistan?
After the fall of Afghanistan and Iraq came the Arab springs and colour revolutions. Then it was Ghaddafi’s turn, who, according to newspapers, seemed to have suddenly gone crazy, bombing his own population and throwing them in mass graves. “We came, we saw, he is dead” said a visibly amused Hillary Clinton in an interview .
After unleashing hell in Libya, the most developed Country in Africa, it was the turn for Assad and the Syrian uprising where, according to newspaper reports, people were suffocated with chemical weapons by the tyrant. Had it not been for the denial by the Russians about the origin of those chemical weapons , Bashar al-Assad would have ended up like Saddam and Ghaddafi with the UN’s blessing.
I had long started to have doubts about Italian newspapers, as I was convinced they were a mouthpiece of the US propaganda. I thought they were biased, because they often translated and published articles by the Washington Post, The New York Times, or worse, by the CNN and Fox News, and I did not understand why they were so openly one-sided. One wonders: was the Italian investigative journalist, Fulvio Grimaldi, right when he talked of “butt-licking journalism”?
I have learned from personal experience that when you are with an Italian, if you criticize the poor functioning of his country, he will say “You are right, unfortunately…” But if you turn your criticism against the US he will get furious, as though you had offended his own mother, and would start defending the US, making you feel like a plotter, or worse, like a terrorist.
The answer to the obvious question is embedded in Second World War history, when the Americans freed Italy from Nazi-Fascism and travelled up the Italian peninsula distributing chocolates.
The Marshall plan bound Italy with an umbilical cord and turned it into a North American province. It is undeniable that the liberation from the twenty years of Fascism implied sixty years of military occupation, judging from the presence of about a hundred US military bases on Italian soil .
Being part of NATO meant de facto relinquishing national sovereignty. Since then Italy has never been independent again. The only exception being Craxi, who in the Sigonella affair, rebelled against the US; by refusing to release the four Palestinian terrorists of the Achille Lauro .
Only God knows for how many more years will Italy have to obey its master!
A master so skilful to create Al Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, ISIS, Boko Haram, and other extremist groups if needed. This does not exclude the possibility that even the Red Brigades may have been the product of the US! And if this theory is correct, then the historical compromise and its governments of the first and second republic could be held accountable. So much for Mazzini, Cavour and Garibaldi!
The dramatic twist in the events
Inside a newspaper office in Rome or Milan, daytime: Comfortably sitting in their offices, as if they were the heirs of Salgari who, in the Tiger of Malaysia managed to describe a world he had never been to, Italian journalists started to describe Eritrea with their demonic set of mind. A daily job aimed at destroying the new “villain” of the day, President Isaias Afwerki considered an enlightened progressive leader by Eritreans, incorruptible and unique in Africa. Incredulous, I started to worry.
“Why on earth would Italian journalists write lies about a country they have never set foot in?” I asked myself in bewilderment. How did they select to demonize Eritrea, out of the 54 African States? Whose orders? And why?
The fact that they mechanically repeated untruthful labels coined by the US such as “North Korea of Africa”, “Giant prison” and “Hell on earth” to describe Eritrea, makes clear the answer to the question as to who is giving the order. Otherwise someone would have come up with labels such as: “the Guantanamo of the Horn of Africa” or “the African Abu Ghraib”, unless these are considered “democratic tortures.”
Copying each other reciprocally, with a cut-and-paste worthy of a multinational tailor’s shop, they defame Eritrea, even if they can’t point it on the geographical map.
They ask: “Are you an Indian?
I respond: No, I am African. Why?
They ask again: Isn’t India in Africa?”
And if the masters of the world have decided to attack Eritrea, journalists would come and do the dirty work before the Marines arrive, lined up like soldiers in the trenches and ready to fight for a loaf of bread.
In their articles they never mention the investments of the Eritrean Government on public health, the struggle to drastically reduce infant mortality rate and the eradication of communicable diseases, free education from nursery school to University, environmentally friendly development and the fierce battle to stop land desertification. They also fail to speak about the future of young Eritreans freed from the debt of the World Bank and IMF, while their very own sons and daughters are born with a debt of 30,000 euro each.
In truth, what do Italian journalists know about Eritrea, except that its typical dish is the zighinì and that it is very hot and spicy? Do they know, for instance, that Eritrea reached the objectives of the Millennium Goals and the hundreds of dams that have been built in order to achieve food security? Are they informed about Eritrea’s self-reliance philosophy, or self-sufficiency, which teaches us to work rather than beg? Eritrea is, in fact, the only African country refusing the humanitarian “aid” of the USAID  and still, no child dies from starvation. Eritrea has practically banned all NGOs from the country, alongside their “lifelong” aid, aimed at crippling and impoverishing Africa .
And this is something Western NGOs never liked, accustomed as they are of telling Africans, “If you do not approve of my being in your country, it is because you want to deny your population human rights.” Leaving reluctantly, they never forgave the Eritrean Government for creating a precedent, which would have been “a threat of good example”, in the words of Noam Chomsky, for other African countries. So the NGOs claim a regime change is needed!
Flashback: These Italian journalists are ungrateful people, mercenaries of misinformation, foot soldiers and stenographers to power with a short memory; they do not even have the humility or intellectual honesty, or the curiosity to want to know about Eritrea and its struggle for genuine independence. They should have felt some sort of gratitude towards Eritreans; they should have felt indebted and embarrassed for their lack of respect for the hundreds of thousands of Ascari (colonial Eritrean soldiers), who died for their mania of grandeur.
Had it not been for Eritreans, recruited against their will, they would have never conquered Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, Somalia and Ethiopia. It was thanks to Eritreans that they tasted their dream to be an empire and had their place in the sun. But, surely, it is not the Eritrean Ascari’s fault if they then lost their head, and the Second World War with it, alongside their three African colonies. For sure, Italy started an ordeal for Eritreans a century ago, which is still continuing.
The British gave their war booty to the Ethiopian monarch Haile Sellassie, and it was with the complicity of the US  and the nascent UN’s silence that Eritreans found ourselves Ethiopians, first federated and then annexed. The consequences of their guilty cockiness meant thirty years of war for Eritrean people, the longest African fight for freedom, in which 80,000 Eritreans died. This was your damned legacy. In the end, though, we won that war in 1991 and declared our independence in 1993, in spite of Italy’s ingratitude, which led it to finance Colonel Menghistu Hailemariam, who massacred tens of thousands of Eritrean people . And today, Italy continues to betray the Eritrean people by allying itself with Ethiopia, its former enemy of the past, dating back to the Battle of Adua in 1896. To put it simply, Italy is waging a media war against its former “first-born” colony.
Daily, they bombard Eritrea with poisoned words covering it with infamy, and when they do not have news they translate deceitful propaganda articles taken straight from online Ethiopian sites.
In this way, they are reversing the course of history by negating Eritrea’s 30-years’ fight for freedom, in order to deliver Eritrea to Ethiopia hand packed, as it were, like a beautiful present, so that it can be re-annexed. They are forgetting that for 13 years, i.e. since 2002, part of Eritrean sovereign soil has been occupied by Ethiopian military forces, in spite of the Algiers Treaties, of which Italy is a guarantor country. Final-and-binding agreements in which the Boundary Commission (EEBC) of the United Nations definitively awarded those territories to Eritrea and from which Ethiopia refuses to withdraw, contravening international law and agreements. In the meantime, the Tigrayan people in power in Addis Ababa threaten yet another war against Eritrea, especially after Obama’s latest visit, Attila overseas, which appears to have given the green light for a new attack. If Eritrea were threatened with a new war jeopardizing its independence, our sovereignty and its flag, obviously they could no longer consider themselves as neutral and non-partisan. They would not be any different from Ethiopian soldiers.
Subjective: I, the grandson of an Ascari, can claim to know Italy. I know its language, dialects and proverbs well. I know its culture and art, the monuments, the literature, the music of singer/song writers, as well as underground music, the cinema of great film directors and of actors of the past, its theatre, museums, the festivals and fairs, the saint patrons’ feasts, its events in the streets and squares, its History and Constitution, the world of work and social centres, its elderly and its hospitals, the cuisine, politics, newspapers and journalists, sports and the magical AS Roma. But I also know the troubles afflicting it. Since my arrival in Italy, the Bel Paese is governed by bad politics, by people who change their party in the same way they change their shirts, by mafias of every kind, a country where the code of silence, hush money and corruption reign supreme. A country where meritocracy is not recognised, of people with friends in the right places, a country of workplace deaths, black market, of exploitation of African workers in tomato fields, a country of bribes, blackmailing, extortions, nepotism, of give-and-take bargaining where one hand washes the other, of the exchange of votes, of fixed tenders, a country where illegal development reigns, with widespread tax evasion, where you die on the zebra crossing, children are kidnapped and women killed, a country where the best brains choose to emigrate elsewhere and those who remain have precarious jobs.
I arrived in Italy and I immediately realised that it was not the same Italy of Dante, Leopardi, Michelangelo and Leonardo, which I had studied and dreamt of as a young student in Eritrea. It is no longer even the Italy of De Filippo, Totò, Fellini and Mastroianni, of De Andrè and of Giorgio Gaber. It is no longer the Italy of Pertini and Berlinguer, of Falcone and Borsellino. It is not the Italy of scientists and Nobel-prize winners, of Guglielmo Marconi and Enrico Fermi. That Italy is dead and buried to leave space for the likes of Riina, Schettino, for Mafia Capitale, corrupt politicians and brown-noser journalists serving the establishment. This is a mediocre Italy; mediocre, but democratic. But what country can be defined as democratic when censorship rules, when the state stops demonstrations in the squares, when the law is not impartial and rewards the clever fellows who steal billions and imprisons someone who has stolen an apple? It is a democracy only because elections are called every one-and-a-half year? It is a lousy democracy, worthy of a Land of Boobies!
Freedom of the press, look who’s talking!
An overview of the past: In spite of my dislike for Emperor Haile Sellassie, those gestures and screams to stop him from talking at the League of Nations in 1936 (when Mussolini invaded Ethiopia) were, from my African perspective, shameful and anti-democratic. He was denied the human right a head of state ought to have in order to defend his country from military aggression. Like father, like son! With the same anti-democratic method, today they are denying Eritrea that same right to defend itself from their media accusations and they are accusing the whole Eritrean community residing in Italy to be “supporters of the regime,” “collaborators,” “spies,” etc. They accuse others of dictatorship, when their democratic freedom of the press is only a monologue without opposition. They are the first to censor Eritreans’ voice by deleting it and banning it on social networks, so that they can continue speaking evil undisturbed. “Your comments waiting for moderation” is their rule. And when all else fails, in a desperate attempt to shut up mouths they scream, “Fascist!” to an African, and do not believe that history can be re-written again from the beginning and that their ominous past may be transferred to the victims. There is no world reversal; the butchers remain butchers and victims remain victims. It is a useless attempt to remake an old movie, which was already ugly originally.
About the author:
Daniel Wedi Korbaria is an Eritrean author and screenwriter who lives and works in Rome, Italy, since 1995. As an activist, he has published in several websites articles written in Italian and translated into English and French, among others: “Scream of an African,” “J’accuse Human Rights Watch,” “The strength of Yonas,” “My encounter with ‘Father’ Mussie Zerai.” His novel in Italian will be published soon. He can be reached at wedikorbaria_at_yahoo_dot_it