From Merciless action to Phony apology: The state amidst #Oromoprotests, Ethiopia

Merciless action (የማያደግም እርምጃ ) to apology ( ይቅርታ ) : But it would leave a long lasting irrefutable evidence of brutality, visible and invisible mark, A SCAR. Still, the questions remain unanswered.

Prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn
Prime minister (some activists call it crime minister) Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, Reuters

Sunday March 13, 2016 or 04 07 2008

By Ameyu Etana

As usual, from the onset, the state branded protesters with derogatory terms, but only to see the worst to come and to inflict pains on millions. They say they’re anti-peace forces, terrorists follows, then to the flip side the state claims the question is legitimate, then again accused hundreds of thousands who flooded in more than hundreds of towns, cities, schools, colleges and universities for protesting, even employers and employees were accused of for showing solidarity to #Oromoprotests. During all these incidents, the state is operating extra judicial killings. It launched officially. State warring citizens.

What have those pregnant moms, seven years old boy, girls, fellow students, farmers even while suffering from the drought done to deserve this? How a boy who is studying is called and gunned down? Wasn’t the state that sends security forces to kill mom and brothers at home? Didn’t we see dead bodies here and there? How come nascent fellows gunned down as if they’re enemy? As if they are animals. They treated protesters as if they are outsiders. Even in this age killers of animal are brought to justice, but not who did to human beings. B/c the victims are unworthy victims.

How could millions forget these, the way the state approached their question of survival. Beyond the right to development, we witnessed millions who have fought barehanded for life. They all died demanding constitutional rights that are rightfully theirs. They all gunned down by the state that praises itself for providing those rights to citizens. The scars always remind us who did to us, how we approached them and in a manner things unfold. Millions will embody the scars as evidence as to what our oppressors did to us for the years to come.

Hundreds cost the ultimate price a human could pay in its lifetime. They are our heroes and heroines. As if the state is vampire, it sucks the blood of our citizens. While they should have been treated like fellow citizens, they were told they are demons who should face the brutality and killings. They were branded they are secessionists, terrorists, extremists … thus, the state led by prime minister (activists call it crime minister) Hailemariam Dessalegn of Ethiopia says its government would take merciless action against protesters.

We have been told the protest is by few anti few forces while millions are behind. They denounce the protest as if it is happened only in a few areas. All these have been archived not only digitally whatsoever, but biologically in all our bloods and veins.

We will honor fellows who were killed by the very security forces they should have been protected by. We will remember them as they were killed in state war. Their death is an act of bravery, to protect their democratic rights. We will raise our hands and ask our master out there to show mercy to their life and rest their soul in a heaven. We will… we will … we will.

Didn’t the state deal much with property damaged over human loss in its mass media? Wasn’t the state officials praise the security forces? What shockingly inhumane it is. Didn’t they decry the crackdown as if it didn’t happen for overseas media outlets? Didn’t they say the crackdown is an absolute lie? Didn’t they close the door for reporting? Didn’t they prevent the movement of correspondents from reporting #Oromoprotests? Wasn’t the state undermines the number of killings by its security forces? Didn’t the public’s right to know in Oromia ignored by the state we call Ethiopian state?

Didn’t we witness the state tried to downplay the very struggle of the Oromo? Didn’t the state show disregard for the people of the Oromo? Haven’t we seen the state launching campaigns on the protesters calling them they are anti-peace forces, terrorists, secessionists…? What the hell were media outlets were doing during the protest? Haven’t we told that the public denounces the protest while that is not the case? Haven’t the media outlets under the guise of the state propagated hate against the Oromo as if they are against the unity of the nation?

Didn’t the state tell its allies that the crackdown didn’t happen? Hasn’t the state tell the BBC that the allegation of HRW of the state using lethal forces is an absolute lie. Haven’t the party officials praise the military for the killings? Didn’t they downplay the life of the Oromos? Didn’t they kill prisoners in torture? Didn’t the security forces prohibit the public from accessing to health facility? Haven’t the families denied of seeing their deceased son? Didn’t they change the obituary of the deceased without the willing of the family? Why all these?

After saying merciless action against protesters (a full state war for that matter), hundreds killed, thousands wounded & imprisoned. Even the brutal regime resulted in dismissal of hundreds of university students. At last, the guy who told the people they deserve merciless action, the ostensibly PM of Ethiopia Hailemariam, apologizes the public. What a political drama the vanguard state is at.

However, the claims by the state are contending. The ministry of government communications affair office, Getachew Reda says Eritrea, Diasporas’, Egypt, Qatar are involved in #Oromoprotests. Some other time it is lack of good governance that resulted in all this brutality, and occasionally, now, the state is responsible. Ladies and gentlemen! Even as we speak, thousand are suffering and languishing of torture in prison. Still, there are many that are missed & unfounded. Again, thousands are taken to military camps for the prisons are full. Hospitals are flooded with wounded protesters, the issue the world ignored. Above all, it is moms who suffer the killing. Taking the dead bodies of their sons and daughters from schools and universities came to be a culture to be lived. As a result, the apology by the state is no more phony.

Yet again, the heart of the people is broken with all these irresponsible deeds of the state and the questions are still blinking and blinking to provoke fresher thoughts in the minds of the mass in such a way to search for answers. Apology is the least the state could do to won the heart of millions. It seems the protest would continue so long as the state is at lip service.

The legitimate questions remain unanswered. The peaceful protesters and leaders of political parties should be released, an independent body to investigate the crackdown should be formed, withdrawing the military from Oromia, stopping land grab, above all holding officials accountable who did all these, including the prime minister who declared war against the people among others. Beyond however, the rule of law, democracy, social justice and the right to self rule are the questions protesters are asking.

 

 

Ameyu Etana is a journalist in Ethiopia and by now he is a graduate student at Addis Ababa University. Can be reached at: ameyuetana@gmail.com   You can follow and comment on his articles on mohiboni.blogspot.com and mohiboni.wordpress.com. All are encouraged to challenge. Any idea is welcomed as far as it has adduced.

Ethiopia: Addis Taxi Strike amidst Oromo protests, Political?

By Ameyu Etana

March 02, 2016

February 29 & March 01, 2016 marked the day Addis Ababa taxi owners and drivers gone strike of taxi throughout the city. Of course, the Addis taxi strike soon turned to Ethiopian drivers strike. Presumably, the latter joined for having fear with regard to the council of ministers regulation no. 208/2011. Although the regulation is in testing phase in Oromia, many have joined the strike. Other regions are practicing the regulation. I.e. the regulation is in effect in Amhara, Tigray, and Southern regions.

Although many argue that the strike is owing to the five years old traffic regulation that is to be in full effect, there are claims that say it is about showing solidarity to Oromo protests, especially in Oromia. The bus station for cross country at Addis Ababa gets stacked for the road is also blocked, mainly towards Jimma, Woliso and others. Therefore, it seems must for them to join the strike. The new directive would ban on licenses of drivers who repeatedly violate traffic rule repeatedly. Despite the fact that the federal transport authority postponed the directive for the next three months after having a discussion on weekends, the drivers went on strike on Monday and Tuesday.

No taxi around piassa, Addis Ababa
No taxi around Piassa, Addis Ababa

As a result, the busiest roads of Addis gone empty and the unusual horse cart, lorries, and pickups, and the public service buses and the usual Ambessa buses took the burden of helping commuters. It is worth mentioning the role of car owners, especially automobiles for their generosity in helping the public that is in need of transport service. All these have been happening for the drivers have fears with regard to the new traffic regulation approved seven years ago by Addis Ababa city council.

Pick ups used for transportation in Addis Ababa
Pickups used widely for there are no taxis in Addis Ababa
Public service turned taxi, Addis Ababa
Public service buses turned to taxi at Addis Ababa

What is more, the protesters or the drivers gone on strike without having an agreement or having intent to let the association know that they are going on strike. This is due to the fact, presumably, taxi drivers association wouldn’t let them do that. This is for the fact that associations are not with the interest of the drivers since the state directs them. Even those days revealed this as they spoke to local media stations. However, that is the way thing do the way they are in Ethiopia.

Megenagna area, the usual taxi
Around Megenagna, Addis Ababa; difficult to find taxi
Horse cart around lamberet, Addis Ababa
The ignored horse cart comes back around Lamberet, Addis Ababa

However, there are many who argue that Addis taxi strike is in solidarity to Oromo protests. Indeed, there seems the protest of drivers is beyond protest to the directive as they told VOA Amharic, US based radio. As a result, drivers at surrounding Addis Ababa (Finfinne- Oromo’s term for the city) including Adama, Holota, Ambo, Weliso, Sebeta, Fiche and dozen others gone on strike. One could assume that it is not merely striking, but protesting the vanguard state of Ethiopia for the brutality it is committing on Oromos since the inception of the second phase of the protest in November 2015. In fact, although many started providing their usual service as of today (March, 02) in Addis Ababa, dozens of cities are still out of service.

Adama bus station on strike, Feb 29, 2016
Adama bus station went empty, Feb 29, 2016
Burayu town; isuzu used for transportation
Isuzu cars used for transportation around Burayu
Woliso town
Woliso town went empty as taxi’s are on strike

Who are the Oromos?

The Oromos constituted more than 25 million of the total 74 million of Ethiopia as the last census conducted in 2007 show. This means that of three Ethiopians more than one hails from the Oromo ethnic group. However, the population of Ethiopia has since grown to almost 100 million.

The Oromo’s are one of the largest ethnic groups in the horn of Africa, mainly, living in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and others. The Oromo have their own language, identity and culture of their own that is distinct from Amharic language, the federal working language of the government.

The Oromo have been subjected to human rights violations and discriminations under three successive regimes in Ethiopia. The current regime employed systematic extra-judicial killings, torture, brutality, disappearances to many youth in the Eastern African nation. Since recently however, the Oromos are protesting unlawful killings committed by the state security forces.

Read more: The controversial master plan of Addis Ababa

I witnessed thousands travelling on foot to work, and getting back. Others, especially the lucky ones get a lift from private owners of automobiles and Toyota pickups. On the other hand however, the government turned public transport to taxi albeit it is not far reaching.

Analysts and political commentators are telling that the state in Ethiopia is sliding back owing to the wide protest of the Oromo for the last four months that resulted in more than 250 to death at the hands of government security forces. The political elites of the Oromo, especially Diaspora Oromos are pushing millions back at home to join protesters to push the government down that is losing the ground.

Read more: Why are Oromos demonstrating?

Although it is not easy to come by, the strike of taxi drivers in Addis and several transport services in Oromia seems not merely protesting the directive. There is a huge disappointment of the public with regard to the repressive action taken by the vanguard state of Ethiopia against Oromo protesters. In addition, a driver talked to VOA tell that ‘‘I don’t think that we are even living in our own country.’’ This does tell that the grievance is deep-rooted.

Therefore, the coming of Addis taxi strikes seem would empower #Oromoprotests that felt short of revolutionizing Addis Ababa in action. On the other hand, similarly, others argue that the feudal system of Ethiopia lose power with the refusal of taxi drivers in 1970’s. Therefore, Addis strike is sending a message that is political to the autocratic government of Ethiopia.

 

 

Ameyu Etana is a journalist in Ethiopia and by now he is a graduate student at Addis Ababa University. Can be reached at: ameyuetana@gmail.com You can follow and comment on his articles on mohiboni.blogspot.com and mohiboni.wordpress.com. All are encouraged to challenge. Any idea is welcomed as far as it has adduced.

The Controversial Master plan of Addis Ababa: A Meticulous Analysis, II

Tuesday February 24, 2016 or 16-06-2008

By Ameyu Etana

Families mourning
Families mourning their deceased son (Source: William Davison)

Part II

Previously in the first part of the article I tried to analyze the infamous master plan of Addis Ababa and the creams of the controversy as a part to snap shot the situation. You can read it here: Part I of The Controversial Master plan of Addis Ababa: A meticulous Analysis

Local Media in the midst of #OromoProtests

I wonder is there a media in Ethiopia, especially if to empirically discuss it with regard to pertinent concepts and elements of journalism. Well it is moot question, yet it must be tabled for deliberation. From the onset, the tribute goes to the political, economic and cultural past of the nation, the structure of media outlets in Ethiopia could well be described as polarized. It is polarized between the state and the press, especially the private press and the government. Indeed, the government handedness on the press to this end is visible. As a result, it would be amenable to base our self on this framework.

The local media outlets were silent for the first weeks of the protest. Soon however, they started to propagate for the state, of course as they were. This happened just after the government reacted over the protest after holding a conference. This could reinforce the argument that says media outlets in Ethiopia speak if at all government says it is. This means that news is news when the state says it is or when the ruling party want to advocate policies and strategies. Otherwise, the chance is minimal.

One thing worth mentioning is that there are a few print media outlets that give coverage to the protest at least in modestly professional manner. The rest, mainly owned by the state have been calling the protesters as anti-peace, anti-development and emulating other derogatory words used by politicians’. This shows that the media outlets are not far from politicians in using the derogatory names which could imply well that they are working for the same goal. As a result, they are hardly playing their role in democracy and development role of media.

Related, Read: Why local media kept silent? Is it being socially responsible?

Lamentably stating, it is really painful to give primacy for property than loss of human lives no matter they are called ‘others’ by the rulers. After all, they are citizens of the nation, even the one the proposed development is for. Ironically, however, a single word of regret has never been heard from the government that repeatedly tells itself it is there for the people. This clearly shows that there is a secreted big interest from the government towards the land around Finfinne.

Why did the media outlets acted in a manner they did?

Because they are unprofessional from the very begininng and are there to serve the political elites they are responsible to. This does mean that media outlets in Ethiopia, mainly state owned, are under the directives of the government. Whereas, a few private media outlets are not far from this impact. By this account, the students, teachers, the pregnant women, the girls, the boys, the professors, the farmers and others that have been killed are unworthy victims for the media. This is because, lamenting their death would do nothing for the state to propagate and advance its sentiments. It would strongly harm its existence as well. As a result, fellows death left merely as a death for no avail, of course not in nation they are living and calling it their country.

Related, Read: Government ride media and scholars view of development: A paradox

Needless to say, media in Ethiopia is not there to surrogate the public, instead, to infuse them with political beliefs that most importantly help the regime stay long on power. However, the directional messages of the state media hardly impact today’s audience. The political power houses of EPRDF are at short of getting what exactly is looking from them. And it is not happening for long unwittingly. It is deliberate for the reason that most media leaders were using media as a propaganda machine while they were fighting in forest. Of course, so do now.

Related: Worthy and Unworthy victims in Ethiopian state media

As a result, the death of citizens was unable to make headlines in Ethiopian media sphere. This is because they are unworthy victims. So, they should be ignored and put against the first draft of history. Had they been worthy victims, Ethiopian media outlets would perpetuate them. They didn’t mention by media outlets as they disrepute the state. This means that students death happened because they work not for the states ally. Though, too graphic photos of wounded and killed citizens on social media networks worth thousands of meaning than what mainstream media do this time.

Failed Media, Failed Democracy, Failed State

Media is the nervous system for democracy. For this to happen, information and critical deliberation should be at the center of the public sphere. With no of these things, democracy is far from happening, even a threat to it. If democracy fails at this age, so does the nation. This is because the age the world is at, the age of information capitalism. If there is no media that is to watch the misdeeds of powerful people and organizations, the existence of the public’s right to know would be put in question. In a nation where questioning is challenging therefore, the citizens and the country would only heading to a dead end—failed state.

 

 

Ameyu Etana is a journalist in Ethiopia and by now he is a graduate student at Addis Ababa University. Can be reached at: ameyuetana@gmail.com   You can follow and comment on his articles on mohiboni.blogspot.com and mohiboni.wordpress.com. All are encouraged to challenge. Any idea is welcomed as far as it has adduced.

As the deeds of Samuel Zemikael exemplifies the parrot nature of Ethiopian media

June 15 2014 or 08/09/2006 Sunday Afternoon

By Ameyu Etana

A man called Samuel Zemikael has been explicitly deceived a number of local media as he was telling himself having an extraordinary way to success albeit he didn’t react to what has been told about him yet.

I know Dr. Samuel Zemikael several months back on state media talking about entrepreneurship. I was amazed about his knowledge as he talks cogently. In addition, he was participating on a program called Bale Raiy on ETV which was licensed for Dr. Abush Ayalew, renowned author.

Other time, I listened him on radio show called 120 Dekika of Fana Broadcasting Corporate. He told us his time with Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, and Vladimir Putin, in addition, we were told as he was awarded scholarship to Australia and Harvard for MA and PhD after he won BA medal at technology faculty of Addis Ababa University.

To your surprise this man still dominates the headline of news papers. On 03 May 2014 or 25 08 2006 Addis Admas newspaper wrote about this man giving him a wide space. The title of the profile was, የትኛውምየሥራፈጠራየሚመነጨውከችግርነው . It was quite awesome personal experience.

At last, before weeks a new program on Sheger Fm called Wazegna aired the speech of Dr. Samuel Zemikael. All this focus on the man ignited me to have an idea of inviting him on our journalism and communication talk show at the up stair of Nelson Mandela building in the main campus of Addis Ababa University though I tried nothing.

To your surprise, last week I was appeared to experience something goes with this man. It was presentation and one student asked me if I had an experience of reading profile feature. Then I raised him the story I read on Addis Admas newspaper about Dr. Samuel Zemikael. Still amazing trip about Dr. Samuel Zemikael until I came to hear as all told was not genuine.

Unfortunately, when I came to hear everything I have grasped from media about this man is fake I ashamed a lot. He was telling us as he had begun a job with a monthly salary of 22, 000 ETB in Addis Ababa municipality having BA, his attachment with officials, the training he gave to university students, his role in philanthropy and was suffered from problematic upbringing. There are still, quite amazing examples this man has had with officials.

He was not deceiving merely media but, higher education students appearing as a man to let them know their way, to identify their vision, to strive for their goals and others. I heard of him speaking as giving a training toll free for students and if he is to come to train others outside Ethiopia, mainly Senegal he would have got thousands of dollars per hour. One thing I doubt was why didn’t I came across this man in Addis Ababa University while giving training since nigh all begun here but I came to know later as I was deceived too.

He was telling himself as he wrote 9 books and met quite precious men on earth. However, I heard Addis Taim program presenter on FM 98.1 saying he wrote only one book (Wetat ena Gabicha) in 1996.

The drama of Dr. Samuel Zemikael dominated face book on Saturday as social media is still a place of public forum for a quite number of youth in Ethiopia. Since, there are a number of partners on local FM in Addis Ababa, Saturday night would be fascinating. Additionally, as they strive to sensationalize issues, they seek such story for their media consumption although still too far to resemble Western media, their benchmark.

Saturday night, first, I tuned on Tadias Addis program of Sheger FM.  Tadele Aseffa was interviewing Mulu Solomon, the ex-president of Ethiopian Chamber of commerce. She was saying, ‘’He was fooling many individuals I know. In addition, he was promoting himself as if he is working with me. When you see him he is so modest and you don’t get dubious of him. Many individuals told me as he ignores them after taking their money, property and others. Later, I was aware of the man but presume he would get corrected. Unfortunately, he becomes the worst of what he was.’’

Another entertainment program on Fana FM 98.1, Addis Taim also gets the issue of this man as agenda. Even, they invited a man from registrar bureau of Addis Ababa University to testify how their office works since the man named Samuel Zemikael is not yet found in their archive but Zekarias Tadesse, who won medal in 1996.

The vice general manager of Fana Broadcasting Corporate, Bruk Kebede was also lamented on the program. ‘‘We got him during the death of Nelson Mandela and yet again during Saudi returnees. We left behind him. From this onwards, we shall be suspicious. It is good lesson. We should pause and think as Samuel is a good example for lesson.’’

The Ethiopikal Link program on Zami Fm 90.7 also focused on Dr. Samuel Zemikael in their program called  Ye Wust Awaki. They stated as the owner of Yoda Abysinnia Tizazu Kone lend money to Dr.Samuel Zemikael after he asked him of getting a traffic problem but he didn’t return the money yet. Additionally, he was taking ambassador suit from seid (the owner of Ambassador real estate, hotel and tailor ) without paying and took 50, 000 ETB to advertise hotel for him but he did nothing. To this end, he was using the name of Mulu Solomon as if she was accompanying him, but that was not happening.

Having known this, all media institutions mentioned above were talking about this man without the presence of his say. They were telling us as Dr. Samuel Zemikael was not picking his phone. After all, how could they check out the wrong doings of this man? Is being doing in media is enough to blame a person? They may face detention by themselves for defaming the privacy of the person since I heard of some presenters pretending to quote everything to him as if they witnessed. However, others were using other sources that have direct experience with the person. Or it is accepted as gossip?

However, a privacy of an individual can be invaded if his/her personal privacy goes against the public good. This may be a good shelter for those who were acting irresponsibly though things are not easy if the man appear to sue them.

I do doubt to swallow as Dr. Samuel Zemikael is public official. This is because he was still pretending to be than being. If the man is public official the responsibility of proving actual malice (intentionally damaging the reputation of a public figure) put on him. If he is not a public official the media institutions would face detention for doing reckless action.

If we ask ourselves how we know Dr. Samuel Zemikael, we will get ample answers. The answer is probably because of its appearance on media, no more no less. However, how could such terrific problem happen? There is an answer. Yet again, this dramatic occasion can be a source by itself as it shows us Ethiopian media is in a same path, in a same political path. If one sings, the other will repeat then they continue to sing the same song in a different rhythm (but the same song) for their different audiences. That is what make many listeners fade-up. That makes me to call them parrot as they are busy with mimicking each other.

If we were to have a good media in our country we would get about this man in different angles. Even, He would have not faked us this distance. We know Bahirdar University awarded him assistant professorship title but by what evidence? He was telling us as he had ample time with our officials and/or businessmen. If so, how could they keep silence to the extent of this happening? Or they were not listening what local media was reporting about Dr. Samuel Zemikael?

In what evidence universities granted him train students? Who is this man? How could he come to have such position? Where is he now? Why he deceived media? Is he true of his words or what initiate him to do so? Even, there are some other questions unanswered.

Auspiciously, our local media are not ready yet to handle such questions. But, they may tell us what someone would say about this man or what police find.

How could a media do a profile of a person without seeing his certificate or without having ample evidence of the person? The media professionals should investigate about the person they’re going to interview since it is a job the journalist not to depend on whatever the interviewee would say; even it helps to be free from being deceived. Being deceived means being losing credibility, which is the big asset of media institutions. This man appeared on other media saying about visionaries or entrepreneurship and how this could be enough to invite him to mine media so as to tell our audience the same he told?

This man may be free of what we blame him so far. But let the court does this as it is its job. Let the jury sit and discuss about this man, after this media will let the public know. He may or may not have PhD or any other things that are untold so far but why the man appeared the way he was? Still questions are taking queue.

In a nutshell, not only Dr. Samuel Zemikael but those media who deceived the wider public should do excuse their audiences since they are there to verify and scrutinize what is true and tell the audience. Otherwise, where is the existence of journalism or what it differentiates it from other kinds of reporting? And media should do its own report to bring something new for audiences than merely relying on others media product; thus, it let it bring new song. What if they came with the same song? No matter. Even if it is the same song it let media from appearing singing in the same manner.

Ameyu Etana is a journalist in Ethiopia and by now he is a graduate student in Addis Ababa University. Can be reached at: ameyuetana@gmail.com  You can follow his articles on mohiboni.blogspot.com and mohiboni.wordpress.com.

The Controversial Master plan of Addis Ababa: A Meticulous Analysis

Monday December 28, 2015 or 18/04/2015

By Ameyu Etana

Part I

Oromo Protests
Source: The Stream of Al jazeera

It has been more than a month since the second phase of #Oromoprotest has erupted in Oromia, the biggest and most populous regional state in Ethiopia. As widely shared on social media, the exact date would be November 12, 2015 at Ginchi town west of the capital Addis Ababa. The first phase of the protest took place in April and May, 2014 following the news report by Oromia television that covers the two day conference of the project office of the Master plan held at Adama town with stakeholders. The news tried to entertain diverse controversial issues that happened on the event in a manner the state media was not known before.

Basically, the main reason for the protest is that the Oromo, the inhabitants in Oromia region, argue that the master plan is land grab not a master plan intended to help the poor farmers that are making a living out of their land. Ironically, however, the government claims different. It is to integrate the Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital, and the nascent towns surrounding Addis Ababa for the benefit of the both as the city is getting bigger as the year wore on.

Trust Deficit; the key Reason

The government of Ethiopia that is led by Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took office in 1991 after the demise of the junta Dergue regime. It has been blamed widely for being too central and autocratic. Of course, this has come to get high mainly after the deadly 2005 election the country witness. Following this moment, the state led by the then the late PM Meles Zenawi came up with democratic developmental model of political economy. Although this has been the first of its kind, it hardly lived up to the term it was coined. This is additional to the federation the country follows. At theoretical level this could raise ample questions as it is visible in practice too. Since then, several media crackdown has happened, the imprisonment of journalists and opposition political parties intensified under the guise of the draconian anti-terrorism law and other laws that came after. Those years had played great to show the state is not actually what it says it is. Hence, polarization of politics has feed the society. The EPRDF led government however, has hardly lived to its words, especially concerning the Oromo. As a result, the doubt besides several incidents that adduce the doubt served to escalate trust deficit in the country.

Land Grab, Life Grab

In fact, the so called land grab turned to life grab. This should not have happened, had the state used other mechanisms to control the violence argue human rights watch and other human rights groups. The oppositions argue that the protest is peaceful until the security forces of government used lethal forces to control the protest. In contrast, the state praises the security for remaining calm despite being overwhelmed in some areas. Whatever is the case, it is the future generations that cost their fortune. So far, more than 200 nascent citizens died; especially it is students that have lost their life. Lamentably though, no government official has officially take the responsibility nor asked pardon the public, the one they owe their loyalty to. What is more, especially in the second phase of the protest the protest began by students of primary and secondary school, and later joined by university students, farmers and the public in general.

Downplaying the Number of Death

The lack of civil societies or think tanks in Ethiopia had played a lot not to disclose the truth to the people. It is really unfortunate to live in state of one-part of a story. Including the previous protest and other violence in the country, there is no an independent institution that could investigate well and let others know the reality on the ground. It is for this reason that the media outlets use the term by the government account when they refer to the number of death. It is obvious that the government downplays the number, whereas, activists do the opposite. During the 2014’s protest government admitted the death of 10 while the opposition state around seventy. In fact, activists group report with the list of individuals who were shot, and wounded as well. On the recent one, government said it was only five, albeit later openly said the government don’t want to play with numbers. It is here, one could ask what type of government really Ethiopians have.

Social Media Activism

The social media networks are the big gifts of the decade for Ethiopians who have long suffered from freedom of expression. By now, more than 3 million of Ethiopians have joined the popular social media, Facebook. Despite the number of users, the political impacts of social media networks are quite visible in Ethiopian media and political sphere. Besides internet access and critical flows of ideas, the users of social media are inviting the nations emerging youth for political acculturation and communication. Thus, the growing importance of social media is worth mentioning here. Basically, it is the critical mass that is shaping the mental horizons of uninformed mass on these platforms. Oromo social media activism is blossoming and making happen networked politics on the internet for the reason that press freedom shackles back at home. This is due to the fact that the Oromo lacked a single independent media.

Deploying critical information

Anywhere and anytime critical information is a threat to autocratic government. This critical type of information is emerging from social media. In addition the launch of Oromia Media Network (OMN) on March 1st, 2014 has played a paramount role in the political communication of the Oromo. If OMN is allowed to transmit in Ethiopia, it could play the role Al Jazeera played during the Arab spring. And this is a threat to Ethiopian government that is highly blamed for having a tight grip on media. The free flow of information which is the practice of real democracy is a threat to tyranny. It is for this reason that the Oromia Media Network jammed and blocked more than ten times since its inception on March 1, 2014.

Diaspora Role; Two ways

The Ethiopian government and the Diaspora have been critical to each other. This is not without reason as most them are pushed to leave their fatherland owing to political and economic reasons.  As a result, there is mistrust and anger between the two. This would include the media owned by the two groups as well. Back at home the government tells the people that everything is hallelujah and the nation is progressing to join the prosperous nations, whereas, in contrast, the critical Diaspora accuse the state for overlooking people’s interests while adducing their arguments. However, the truth lies between, mostly, to the overseas, if not at all.

Always the state accuses the Diaspora for destabilizing the country while it is not the case. How come every problem cited to the overseas citizens? Under the banner of this thousands have been tortured and hundreds went missed for decades. Above all, the draconian laws that came on the table after 2005 election legalized the state to suppress dissent voices while it is not constitutional argue human rights groups and scholars.

The political analyst and activist Jawar Mohammed recently told the Ethiotube that their role is to voice the protest for the reason that media outlets have been under the directive of the state back at home. It claims that the Diaspora are voicing the protest and calling the international community and big media outlets to give coverage to the mass killing of the students. In addition, the main opposition political figure Dr. Merera Gudina tells the same thing to Deutsche Welle broadcasting service. ‘‘The diaspora is far away. …We have no access to the media and the diaspora have some media outlets and they report what is happening in the country. But a diaspora of a few thousand cannot move millions of people.’’ However, this is far from the reality for the government. The PM Haile Mariam Dessalegn tells the House that the opposition political parties have connection with overseas forces which the government calls them terrorists.

 

Ameyu Etana is a journalist in Ethiopia and by now he is a graduate student at Addis Ababa University. Can be reached at: ameyuetana@gmail.com   You can follow and comment on his articles on mohiboni.blogspot.com and mohiboni.wordpress.com. All are encouraged to challenge. Any idea is welcomed as far as it has adduced.

How to Brand Africa? A Conference Discusses at Addis Ababa

Saturday December 12, 2015 or 02- 04 – 2008

By Ameyu Etana

For anyone who would follow media or/and understand how media works, especially Western affiliated media, it is easy to come by the young continent, Africa, is portrayed negatively. These would be due to many factors; interest, media philosophy among others. Yet, what would be the panacea for the longed problem the continent is suffering from?

The conference that was held on December 11-12, 2015 at Addis Ababa University focuses on discussing about reporting issues on Africa. The participants converse about covering governance, migration, business, especially foreign coverage of Africa. In a nutshell, it is at the core of improving journalism in Africa says Prof. Dr. Susanne Fengler, director of Erich Brost institute for International Journalism at TU Dortmund University. ‘‘Such conferences are just the beginning of the launching of the project from the next year on.’’ The first conference was held in October at Dortmund University, Germany.

The conference which was organized by Erich-Brost-Institute, Dortmund University and school of journalism and communication at Addis Ababa University serves to launch a new African-European project in the field of journalism education; ‘‘journalism in a global context’’ aims at connecting journalism students in Africa and Europe, thus promoting the quality of foreign reporting of Europe and Africa, the statement reads.

Such projects are useful in shaping the poor journalism culture of nations. Basically, much of African stories are written by overseas media outlets or with their correspondents. As a result, this project promote the idea that spins around stories need to be written by African themselves, argues Prof. Dr. Negeri Lencho, head of school of journalism and communication at Addis Ababa University.

Participants have discussed on the challenges and way out to problems of stories on Africa citing Africa has immense positive issues that are capable of improving the image of the continent. They argue that there are many opportunities to rectify the single African stories that are negatively stereotyped.

The issue of regional integration, access to information, visa and other were raised among the participants. The CEO of African Media Initiative, Eric Chinje tells the discussants that African media cooperative is to be launched. It aimed at integrating Africa with information. ‘‘We are planning to share top news from each country in Africa on the internet network we are going to launch.’’

During the first day of the conference, Professors, freelance journalists, media practitioners, students and other stakeholders participated that was held at Eshetu Chole hall of college of Business and Economics at Addis Ababa University. The next day, participants from various countries in Africa and Germany that left for Ethiopia were joined again by professors at Addis Ababa University in which they have discussed at graduate school of journalism and communication.

 

Ameyu Etana is a journalist in Ethiopia and by now he is a graduate student at Addis Ababa University. Can be reached at: ameyuetana@gmail.com  You can follow and comment on his articles on mohiboni.blogspot.com and mohiboni.wordpress.com. All are encouraged to challenge. Any idea is welcomed as far as it has adduced.

 

Developmental Democracy Mass Media Policy and Strategy of Ethiopia: Discussing the Draft

Tuesday December 1, 2015 or 21- 03-2008

Ameyu Etana

The media industry in Ethiopia, the private media in particular, find itself stuck in the fight between relevance and survival. The challenges are further compounded by a media regime that oscillates between coercion and liberalization. While little blame is attached to the current legal framework the media industry operates in, there is a lot to be desired when it comes to laying the groundwork for the industry to flourish. A media policy hatched by the Government Communications Affairs Office, the first comprehensive policy document for the industry, has surfaced. The draft policy attaches too much importance to advancing the ideological orthodoxy of the ruling party. But where should its loyalty lie, to the constitution or developmental state ideology?

Soon after the conclusion of the recent congress of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), senior government officials have come out boldly criticizing their own performance when it comes to good governance issues. There is also a renewed furor for the media to play its key role in addressing these challenges by delving into investigative journalism – one aspect of the media profession the tenth congress vowed to strengthen.

This comes at a time when the country is bracing itself to embark on the second growth and transformation plan. Under the five-year growth plan, the media sector is reduced to a sub-section under the topic ‘Public mobilization, democratization and national consensus’. Indeed, the plan envisages transforming the industry with the introduction of several radio and television channels by both private and public actors and entrusts the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority with such responsibilities.

However, the plan also leaves traces of the kind of media the government desires to see flourishing in the coming five years – a media that aligned itself to the developmental state model. It anticipates the media, the entertainment industry included, to play an active role in “combating neo-liberal ideology”, building “national consensus” and assisting the government in its developmental endeavors.

In his latest interview with EBC, the state TV broadcaster, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn also seems to reinforce this view when he said “the media should be protected from external influence and beliefs”.

The prime minister also said that investment incentives such as duty free privileges will be extended to the media sector as long as it is justified that the industry “adds value” to the country’s economic progress and democratization.

From liberalization to coercion

Amidst all this, a draft media policy prepared by the Government Communications Affairs Office has recently surfaced. The draft policy document titled ‘developmental democracy mass media policy and strategy’ states that the country’s media industry must conform to the hegemonic political economy of the nation. It further states that a media industry in such political economy “has no option but to be subservient to the desire of the masses.”

“The end goal of the developmental democracy mass media policy and strategy is to maintain the hegemonic status of the developmental democracy political economy…” the draft document states. In its mission to fight neo-liberalism and upholding developmental democracy attitudes, the policy document makes no distinction between public or private media organs.

“The private media is expected to recognize that their existence is tied to the continuation of the [current political economy],” the document further states.

Former head of School of Journalism and Communication at Addis Ababa University, Abdissa Zerai (PhD), commends the government’s move to introduce the first comprehensive media policy but questions the type of policy the government aspires to introduce.

“Any media policy should have as its starting point, the constitution which governs how things operate in that particular country,” argues Abdissa in an e-mailed response to The Reporter.

“The Ethiopian constitution reflects the basic and fundamental ingredients of any liberal constitution, if you will. The developmental component is an addendum or an afterthought which was never conceived during the ratification of the constitution,” Abdissa says.

Observers say media governance during the over two decades of the EPRDF rule has shifted between periods of liberalization and coercion. The year 2005, which witnessed a bloody aftermath of the third general election, is often cited as a turning point. It was also a year the ruling party officially ascribed to its developmental state model.

“Even in the post-2005 era, media governance has shifted between a period of post-election setbacks, to a period of revitalization, and back to a current condition of renewed coercion,” writes Terje S. Skjerdal, in his research titled ‘Journalism culture in the Ethiopian state media (2012).’

Much of the country’s media legislations including Freedom of the Press and Mass Media Proclamation, the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation all came into force after 2005. These are legislations that signaled the shift in media governance in the country. They touted as restrictive to freedom of expression and mass media in the country and as instruments that erode the liberal tenets of the FDRE Constitution. This, many argue, is fueled by the ideological orthodoxy the ruling party ascribes to.

“The imperatives of our constitution and that of the developmental democracy with particular reference to press freedom are to a large extent fraught with tension as there is a built-in contradiction between the two,” Abdissa opines.

“I don’t see how one can draft a comprehensive media policy taking the developmental democracy as its basis and afford not to violate the spirit of the constitution,” Abdissa further argues.

However, Gizaw Tesfaye, director of Law and Advertisement at Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority, sees no issue with regard to the policy being framed in a way that advances developmental democracy.

“In simple terms what it means is that the media will be the watchdog of the development process in the country,” Gizaw argues.

“The public is frustrated with little coverage the broadcast media is currently giving to local issues such as good governance. To the contrary, the public is questioning the value of excessive coverage about Hollywood personalities or popular football stars,” he says adding that the desired media is the one that reflects the socioeconomic situation of the country.

However, the director maintains that the document is currently a “zero draft” which needs to be further developed after consultations with various stakeholders.

A fragile stakeholder

The private and public media, journalism departments, political parties, the government are among the stakeholders whose inputs are sought in the drafting process of a media policy.

However, the media industry in Ethiopia is characterized as highly polarized. Such attribute of the major players in the media industry has been an obstacle in the formation of an independent media council, which has been hatched more than a decade ago.

Tangled with protracted issues, the council is yet to see the light of day and UNESCO has reallocated the funds it initially set aside for Ethiopia to another African country.

“What this tells us is that in the absence of media institutions that come together and exert pressure on policymakers, my instinct tells me that mainly the government would dictate the direction of the policy,” Abdissa anticipates.

In fact, the government told industry players that unless they come together to establish a media council, it would be forced to establish a statutory body. And a draft Media Law proclamation grants the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority the task of enacting a media code of conduct for the broadcast sector.

“The authority has the responsibility to fill the gap in the absence of a media council which is ready to takeover such task,” Gizaw told The Reporter.

Connecting the dots

Much like Ethiopia, Singapore, an Asian economic giant, has a constitution which is characterized as having liberal tenets. While Singapore managed to achieve remarkable economic growth in a relatively short period of time, the country still finds itself in the bottom on issues of democracy in general and freedom of expression and the media in particular.

This year, Singapore is ranked 153 out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index making it the worst country among other developed economies on Human Development Index. The political dominance and hegemonic governance the ruling PAP (People’s Action Party) obtains in Singapore allowed the political leadership to directly translate its pragmatic political ideology on the role and function of the media. Currently, most of the local media are directly or indirectly controlled by the government.

Although the government of Ethiopia speaks of democratization and development in the same breath, observers fear that the country could be heading to a similar path of a more restrictive media regime. Although the media policy is currently only at a draft stage, such patterns are ordained by the developmental state ideology espoused by the ruling party.

New Vision, the ideological publication of EPRDF, issued a month after the 2010 general elections in which the ruling party secured all but two parliamentary seats (99.6 percent), brought to the limelight the party’s statement of intent in its ideological stance.

The publication, which is distributed to the party’s political elites and hitherto understood to have the late Meles Zenawi as its editor in chief, admitted that the result was “unexpected” but added it was indicative of “the public’s desire”. Hence, it concluded that the current opposition parties should not, in the future, be allowed to win any more seats than they did that election year. Five years later, the ruling party and its affiliates managed to secure 100 percent of the seats in parliament.

And for observers, the media industry has become the latest victim and the draft media policy offers a sign of things to come.

“If the envisaged policy puts premium on solely advancing the interest of developmental democracy, maybe it is the beginning of the end of our liberal constitution as we know it,” Abdissa fears.

He warns such a move would have a far reaching consequence for press freedom and the freedom of expression and, by implications, for democracy in the EPRDF Ethiopia.

“I hope sane minds will prevail and those involved in the drafting of the policy would come up with a document that is forward looking,” he advices.

Source: The Reporter

 

Ameyu Etana is a journalist in Ethiopia and by now he is a graduate student at Addis Ababa University. Can be reached at: ameyuetana@gmail.com  You can follow and comment on his articles on mohiboni.blogspot.com and mohiboni.wordpress.com. All are encouraged to challenge. Any idea is welcomed as far as it has adduced.

I want to be a voice for voiceless people just by writting diverse issues while giving due emphasis for professional journalism, as i am living with.