22 August 2018

Ethiopia: Creating Harmony, Diaspora Based Medias' Next Assignment

Following Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed's call for synergy, reconciliation and a promise for new era of ethnic unity, democracy and freedom of speech, various positive vibrations has ignited among Ethiopians from all walks of life. All has laid their eyes on the PM's promises hoping for better Ethiopia with a better future.

The year, in general, has seen many changes. It has observed freeing of political prisoners and activists, making peace with opposition parties, invitation for abroad-based opposition leaders and media, as well as all Ethiopians across the world to support the reforms and contribute their share to country's overall development.

Likewise, dramatic changes in the landscape of media have waved. Issues such as violation of human rights and breaking news are getting massive coverage.

Following that, many Diaspora based media such as the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and the Oromo Media Network (OMN) and other new media by renowned activists are under process to get license and operate in the country.

Besides its major role (to inform, educate, and entertain), media, as the fourth state and a voice for the voiceless and a watchdog, is a powerful tool in creating vibrant citizens who think critically, reason out and make sensible decisions; instead of led by opinion and emotions.

In relation to the opening of these media, this writer tried to assess the impacts and the roles they could play in country's social, economic and political arena.

The opening of these media in the country enables people to have alternative information sources and entertain diversified ideas and perspectives as there was no such media to feed their desire for information. Furthermore, it would promote press freedom, said Kefeleyohannes Anberber, a journalist at the Ethiopian Press Agency

However, these media have their own shortcomings as their outlets are not inclusive; he said referring to their [ESAT and OMN] previous pieces.

"Most Diasporas' media organizations are run by opposition parties and they entertain only anti-government and mostly ethnic-based rhetoric," he added

These media, while they operate within the country should change their format and broadcast issues of common goal so as to bring positive outcomes. They need to change their scope and work for all the people to address the general public complaints regardless of any political or ethnic background, he added.

Another journalist who does not want to be mentioned by name on his part said that such outside based media are known for portraying a bleak picture of what is happening in the country.

"Most of their features are based on opinions and rumors which lack reliable sources and violate professional reporting."

"This undeniably would agitate the public for insurrection. And if they continue like that, it is dangerous for current nation's synergy and unity move.

There is still a room for improvement if they truly work for public's interest and common goals, he suggested

"They should come with diverse voices and serve only the public. Equally, they should foster an understanding of appreciation of ethnic linguistic cultural and historical differences and build harmony among the public," he added.

The Ethiopian Broadcast Authority Communication Directorate Director Gebregiorgis Abraha on his part said that until now the Diaspora based media have not get permission; but some of them have opened office and they are in process to operate within the country. "Most of these media ownerships are non-Ethiopian citizens or Diasporas. And in order to get the license they need to fulfill the set requirements and procedure.

According to Gebregiorgis, currently, there are nearly 12 private radio stations operating in the country. In addition to this, three are in process to get the licenses. In the same way, seven satellites, six terrestrial and nine private television stations are currently transmitting their programs. 15 television stations are also in licensing process.

Likewise, while there are 400 community radios, the number of private newspapers and magazines reach to between 11 to 10.

Mentioning that in earlier years there was no any law or regulation for online media, Gebregiorgis said that at present online media which governs nation's online usage is drafted.

"Online media needs research and researches are underway by stakeholders to create a platform to assess contents of the online media in order to prevent disruptive messages and destructive acts of some anti-peace elements," added Gebregiorgis.

As it is known, two decades ago the country had only one television and two radio stations, (one solely for educational transmission) four newspapers and two magazines. On the contrary, two decades after country's media outlets have shown remarkable progresses and is supplying diverse print and electronic outlets for its population, he remarked.

In relation to the number of media both electronic and print Kefleyohannes said that the media operating throughout the country are not adequate for a country with100 million people. The media are not also working as they should due to various factors.

"For instance, most of them be it government or private are divided in ethnic interests and other agendas. State's media are broadcasting or publishing biased and ethnic based information and other influences instead of promoting unity."

According to him, ignorance of and not practicing their own editorial policy is the first problem. "So, I suggest the need to revise their contents and strive for social responsibility so as to creating healthy citizen who values and appreciate ethnic, linguistic, cultural and historical differences, "He added

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