TSEGA MELAKU 311.
(photo credit: Esteban Alterman)
The Israel Broadcasting Authority has come under fire after removing its only
Ethiopian-born executive from her position, with some critics calling the move
“racist,” The Jerusalem Post heard on Sunday.
Tsega Melaku became the
first Ethiopian-Israeli to be appointed as director of Israel Radio’s Reshet
Alef station three years ago after beating fierce competition for the job. Her
term was set for three years, with an option of renewal for a second
The IBA, which came under new management in September, decided not
to extend her contract.
Now Melaku, who has garnered a large following
and is often hailed as a leading example of how Israelis of Ethiopian descent
can succeed thanks to hard work and talent, has started legal proceedings in the
National Labor Court against the IBA for unfair dismissal.
talks about promoting the Ethiopians and Tsega got her job based purely on
merit,” former Jewish Agency foreign media spokesman Michael Jankelowitz said,
adding that she was first Ethiopian to be given a mainstream position on radio
not aimed at the immigrant population.
He continued: “Now the IBA
directorate has chosen to demote her. It is a real shame but that is the message
that goes out to society.”
Jankelowitz said it was ironic that Melaku’s
dismissal from the powerful post comes at a time when incidents of blatant
racism against Ethiopian-Israelis seem to be on the rise and integration of the
110,000- strong community into society seems to be more elusive than
Last week, hundreds of Ethiopian-Israelis took to the streets in
Kiryat Malachi to protest against residents there who had signed a housing
agreement with the neighborhood committee not to rent or sell their apartments
to Ethiopian families.
“Ethiopians are upset about not being allowed to
rent apartments in Kiryat Malachi and then the story breaks that the first
Ethiopian head of Reshet Alef, who was selected based on her skills by the
previous administration, was u n c e r e m o n i o u s l y dumped,”Jankelowitz
Melaku, who re-applied for the position after being told in
September that her contract would not be renewed, has been working at the IBA
for more than 23 years. She previously headed the radio’s Amharic service and
holds two university degrees, one in management. Melaku, 43, made aliya from
Ethiopia when she was 16.
While she could not comment on the case due to
the legal proceedings, Melaku was among several former IBA executives who
appeared at a hearing of the Knesset State Control Committee last week. The
meeting was called to evaluate whether the new appointment process implemented
by recently appointed IBA Director Yoni Ben- Menachem is fair.
Knesset meeting, Ben-Menachem’s decision not to renew Melaku’s contract came
under sharp criticism from Tel Aviv Journalist Association Director Yossi
Bar-Moha, who called the decision racist.
In response, Ben-Menachem said
that he believed Melaku’s appointment by the previous IBA administration had
been “only because she is Ethiopian.”
Bar-Moha told the Post on Sunday
that Ben-Menachem’s response proved that the decision to remove Melaku from the
job had been motivated by her ethnic identity.
A spokesman for the IBA
told the Post
that no comment could be made at this time about Melaku’s case
because it is now the subject of a legal process.
“Tsega was excellent,
she really is a great journalist,” said the Knesset’s only Ethiopian MK, Shlomo
Molla (Kadima), who has been vocal in his support for Melaku and critical of the
IBA’s decision to replace her.
“I believe this is a mix of two things,”
he said. “The IBA management does not think that an Ethiopian is able to be a
manager at the radio station and the other problem is that Tsega is very
opinionated and strong, so they just decided to let her go."