Ethiopia: Expert Calls for Strong Action Against Fake News Actors

The reporting of false and misleading information by some local and foreign-based media outlets about the law enforcement operation and their attempts to dehumanize the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) need a serious legal response, communication expert said.

Speaking to local media, Journalism and Communication professor at U.S.-based Hamline University Endalkachew Hailemichael (PhD) stated that remnants of the crushed TPLF Junta turn their face to media war in a view to compensating the disastrous defeat they sustained in the battlefield.

The scholar noted that a program a YouTube- based media, Awlo recently broadcasted about the use of chemical weapons and indiscriminate killings of civilians by the ENDF in Tigray State is a clear manifestation of the attempt.

Endalkachew indicated that the said media failed to discharge its entrusted responsibility of challenging and verifying the accusation made by TPLF associates against the national army to create confusion and hate among the people. The media also served as the platform to the defeated camp to insult and undermine the disciplined and victorious institution.

He stressed that Awlo's cause is the clear manifestation of the larger misinformation and disinformation campaign TPLF activists have waged before and the aftermath of the law enforcement operation which successfully dismantled the criminal faction for once and for all.

As to the expert, TPLF-sponsored programs have been evident in some media contents, framing and sources and the smear campaign is the integrated activity of some interest groups working to destabilize Ethiopia and worsen the political and economic challenges the country has been facing.

"The bribed local and foreign-based media that were glorifying TPLF's false military might and urged the ENDF to surrender now accuse the national army for wrongdoings cognizant of the latter has defended and protected the people of Tigray more than anyone else."

The journalism scholar highlighted that the intensified misinformation movement is deployed as a weapon against the news industry and as a tool to media manipulation thereby decreasing trust of mainstream media and furthering radicalization. Even when disinformation has been revealed, it may continue to shape people's attitude.

To counter the extensive smear campaigns of TPLF activists, Endalkachew recommended that the government should permit both local and international media to witness the objective reality in Tigray and the ongoing rehabilitation activities in the area.

Paving the way to global news media companies to come and report from Tigray is crucial to the outlets to provide verifiable information to their audiences and empower the latter to distinguish what is news and misinformation.

In a related development, the Government of Ethiopia permitted yesterday seven international news media companies namely BBC, Reuters, AFP, Al-Jazeera, Network Times, France 24 and Financial Times to visit and report the current situation in Tigray.

Above all, legal actions should be taken against media companies that have been deceiving people with false information and journalists and other actors who have been disseminating hate speech and illegal contents ought to be held accountable as they attempted to fuel the unrest, he remarked.

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