Divided Eritreans to gather at Free Press
By: Staff Writer A bitter dispute within Winnipeg's Eritrean community is expected to be played out on the street today, with a protest and a counter-protest in front of the Free Press building. One faction said it
By: Staff Writer
A bitter dispute within Winnipeg’s Eritrean community is expected to be played out on the street today, with a protest and a counter-protest in front of the Free Press building.
One faction said it will gather on Mountain Avenue to protest what it says are biased articles published in the Free Press, including one that alleged a local organization is pressuring newcomers to give a portion of their salaries to support the current political regime of Eritrea.
The rival group said it will also meet at the Free Press at the same time, in support of the newspaper.
Lambros Kyriakakos, president of Eritrean Community in Winnipeg Inc., said the articles paint his organization and the greater Eritrean community as terrorists who are using funds in an illegal manner.
“What we hope to see is co-operation from the (Free Press) to rectify the defamation… to the Eritrean community,” Kyriakakos said, adding he hopes the negative portrayal in the contested articles can be balanced with an opportunity they were denied.
Kyriakakos said he’s expecting about 100 members of the local Eritrean community, including children, to be at the protest, set for 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for another group of Eritreans said they will be in front of the Free Press to show support for the paper and show not all Eritreans in Winnipeg support the actions of the government of Eritrea.
“We left Eritrea because we were persecuted,” Ghezae Hagos said. “We do not support the (Eritrean) government.”
Hagos said he won’t be able to draw a group of people as large as the crowd Kyriakakos will bring, but added they want Winnipeggers to know there is a bitter divide within the Eritrean community over the pro-Eritrea actions of Kyriakakos and the organization he leads.
Hagos said the government of Eritrea has been cited by the UN Security Council for its support, including arming and training, of a terrorist group active in the Horn of Africa.
Free Press editor Margo Goodhand said Kyriakakos and his supporters live in a democratic country where they are free to protest wherever they want, adding the newspaper will continue to investigate despite the controversy.
“We stand behind our reporters and our stories on this issue,” Goodhand said.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 15, 2011