IBA slammed for ‘dumping’ Ethiopian-born exec

Head of Tel Aviv Journalist Association calls Tsega Melaku’s removal ‘racist.’

TSEGA MELAKU 311 (photo credit: Esteban Alterman)
(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 term.
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.
“Everyone 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 ever.
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 said.
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.
During the 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."