Ethiopia: Fair Reporting, Fair Election

Ethiopia is set to hold the 6th general elections in the coming June, 2021. With a few weeks remaining, citizens are encouraged to timely register and have the voting card on their hand. All necessary preparations are underway so as to conduct credible election and contending political parties are campaigning with registration of voters continuing.

Time has been allocated for the opposition political parties to entertain their agenda and inform the citizens to elect their representatives. The political parties are transmitting their political campaigns through broadcast and print media according to a timetable given to them. The role of media in this regard is vital to make the whole election process.

In this regard, the role of media in election proves more imperative to make the polling peaceful and transparent. This week, the Ministry of Peace has organized a workshop to discuss the role of media in election where local media and journalists to be objective and responsible in their reporting during the upcoming general electioneering season.

Media practitioners, political parties, members of civil societies and other stakeholders were participants of the half-day panel discussion. Speaking during the panel discussion, Peace State Minister, Worknesh Biru said as media are becoming the engines the societal change in modern time, it has to be functional as a watchdog by reporting the upcoming general election impartially, accurately and responsibly, according to ENA.

She noted that the media have a key role to play in providing accurate information and its positive impact needs to be acknowledged in development and social change of the country. "The role of the media in the development, democracy, the effort of prosperity and social activities of our country, Ethiopia, has been very important for many years," Worknesh noted.

Acknowledging as Ethiopia will hold a general election in a time that the country has been facing extreme political polarization and some security difficulties, the state minister underscored it is the responsibility of media needs to play a constructive role in promoting peace and security through balanced election reporting. She encouraged the media and journalists to engage for positive influence and to make constructive impact in society and not incite others to violence.

"It should be emphasized that our media works should not be based on rumors, but should ensure that credible and work for the welling of their country which is always in the interest of the government and the people," she urged. The State Minister further noted that currently Ethiopian media has been enjoying unprecedented freedom, adding the government will continue to work effectively in creating a conducive environment for all media outlets during the election.

Director-General of Ethiopian Broadcast Authority, Mohamed Indris, mainstream media must be vigilant for hate and distorted information disseminated by various media platforms in a move to disrupt the upcoming election. "Mainstream media has a sole responsibility to verify such fabricated and inflammatory information disseminated by different bodies regarding the upcoming general election, specially on various social media platforms whether it is accurate and honest. Therefore, evidence-based reporting should be done in a manner that informs and does not seek explicitly to inflame public opinion or reaction."

Mohamed pointed out that the media houses and journalist must keep in mind during this election period while reporting news on election related cases like understanding media law and their code of ethics to effectively relay the news to the people. While the role of media is imperative, the upcoming election is also receiving more attention as the country is undergoing make-or-break political reforms. In fact, the stakes are high and the opportunities are too many with regard to the election this time as the country is caught amidst challenges. With all preparation in the offing, the government is committed to create conducive environment for citizens to elect their representatives freely and without any pressure.

Many expect that the upcoming election will be another millstone to catapult the country into new down to democracy. The days leading to the voting day are important to make an election peaceful, fair and credible and so far the process going on well. However, the number of people taking voting card is not up to the expectation and there are some places that are unreachable to political parties due security issues. If these issues are resolved, Ethiopia will hopefully have a more democratic and credible election in its history.

The government in the last two years has been taking strings of political and legislative reforms that may contribute to a more competitive election. For example, the electoral board which oversees the polling has been re-established as an independent institution. Apart from this , a separate body which investigate election problems has been established. Similarly, attorney general and courts have also set mechanisms that only preside over election related complaints and cases separately.

It is known that the previous elections were seen as undemocratic and the current administration is committed to conduct free, fair and democratic election in the coming June. The government is exerting all rounded efforts so as to conduct successful election which is free from bias.

Election related problems are inevitable and establishing an independent investigative body that meet international standards is a vital step accordingly. Ethiopia conducted five general elections which all of them were described as sham elections. Unlike the previous regime, the current administration is exerting all rounded effort so as to conduct credible election which will transcend the country to a path of democracy.

The highly anticipated elections will arguably be Ethiopia's first free and fair elections. Since 2018, the current administration has embarked on a path of democratization with a commitment to widening the political space and enabling environment for a democratic and informed discourse. Realization of this commitment is not without any difficulties. Nevertheless, the government's will to persevere along the intended path of democratization remains uncompromised.

Following the failure of the previous regime to build a democratic culture, Ethiopia is now confronted with the twin challenges of building the necessary institutions and mindsets to enable a robust democratic culture and practice. Ethiopians are also presented with an opportunity to transition the country into a new era of governance and prosperity befitting its long history and aspirations of its proud people and the ample growth potential our country possesses.

BY HAILE DEMEKE

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