21 March 2018

Ethiopia: Media - Lens for Peace

Media play an essential part and indispensable role in the political, economic and socio-cultural activities and have become increasingly central to every aspect of human lives. Media further than disseminating day to day information and closing the information gaps, serve as watchdog to protect public interest against malpractices, enhance the ability to make informed decisions, buttress and deepen peace and democracy.

On the other hand, media, though are playing prominent role in shaping public opinion and strengthening society, irresponsible and unwise utilization can incite hatred, create havoc and cause undesirable impacts on society as witnessed in some countries.

For this saying, the case in Rwanda is a showcase. The issue of the state-owned media, 'the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines" in Rwanda, which broadcast hate propaganda between the Hutus and Tutsis and backed the genocide against the Tutsis, is not an aged history rather a recent one. The unforgettable catastrophe between the two tribes was the consequences of unethical and misuse of the media.

To that end, media should serve the public in a manner that does not compromise peace, and build social consensus, in a way democracy is unthreatened.

Countries to achieve sustainable peace, development and building a democratic system, media and communication have indispensable role. However, the information disseminated to the public should have the peace element in it to ensure lasting peace and security said Government Communication Affairs Office Minister Dr Negeri Lencho at a forum organized recently to evaluate the first half year performance of the Office's under the theme 'An Effective Communication and Media Work for Sustainable Peace and Development.

Correspondingly, the most critical mission of country's communication and media sector is increasing publics' awareness and participation as well as enabling them play active role in sustaining peace and rapid development, promoting good governance through accessing credible, relevant and timely information.

In this regard, in the past six months the Office has carried out various activities by giving coverage on issues that are fundamental to build national consensus. In line with this, the Office has disseminated topical national issues and provided information for local and international media. It has also publicized and depicted government's stance and has made efforts to enable the general public discharge responsibility by proposing and broadcasting timely messages. Likewise, information that builds nation's image and incidents that the country has encountered, are passed on to the public. What is more, through conducting public opinion survey, the outcome is utilized.

Moreover, identifying sector's gaps and undertake national reform was the other issue that was given due attention by the Office, Dr. Negeri added.

Within the past six weeks in some parts of the country conflicts that threatened peace and security have occurred. As a result thousands of people have been displaced, properties vandalized and lives lost, causing social, psychological and economic cost on the public. However, this is by no means acceptable. Rather, it is an act that should be condemned by all.

In relation to this, in the media and communication sector limitations are observed in terms of facilitating flow of accurate, topical and relevant information to the public in more coordinated and consistent manner, he remarked.

Currently, the government, with the aim of halting conflicts, restoring public' peace and security, ensuring rule of law and sustaining the ongoing multifaceted changes that are embarked throughout the country, has declared a State of Emergency. For the decree to achieve its objectives, the role the society play is irreversible. In this regard, the media and communication sector should exert utmost effort in accessing reliable, timely information to the society and safeguarding them from the misleading ones. Most importantly, the sector should prioritize peace and serve as a lens for peace, Dr Negeri remarked.

Office Advisor Endale Assefa on his part said that the Office has been working to achieve the goals set for the sector in the Second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II). In this regard, the Office, setting a plan to disseminate nearly 9, 066 information by using social media, nearly 12,200 are disseminated in Amharic and English languages. Successively, over 53 million people (in recurring manner) visited the page and 8,100 peoples have given their opinions/comments. At the same time, different government media have provided different information on the same issues.

BY MESERET BEHAILU and TAMERU REGASA

Ethiopia

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