Media houses are responsible and are duty bound to promote peace, cultivate positive attitude among the society through disseminating accurate and balanced information. They should not catalyze conflict at the expense of peace. Contrary to this, some media houses, including the social media, prefer the negative side of the story and run after to inflame conflicts.
But why do these media houses incite conflicts? According to Tesfaye Bezabeh (PhD), Wolo University International Relations Director and Journalism lecturer, knowledge gap among media professionals regarding societal and political values, personal interest at the expense of others' sufferings, is one reason.
In an exclusive interview with The Ethiopian Herald, Tesfaye said that media have key role in building peace, solidarity and preventing and managing conflicts as they can influence public opinion, shape societal outlook and political views. Ethiopia is a home for different nations and nationalities; and while promoting freedom of speech and advocate democracy, media houses should focus on the concept of unity. Using the available media houses and professionals, much can be done to promote peace and stability, cultural values and inculcate the value of fraternity and belongingness.
Media is also a gatekeeper that prevents the nation from both inside and outside enemies that are waiting all opportunities to destroy nation. Owing to this and other important elements, effective utilization of the media is critical not only for a particular media, but also for over hundreds of millions Ethiopians.
Seeing the infant nature of most media houses in the country, the concerned organ should also do its assignment in setting rules where media houses are governed accordingly. This year election is considered as the first in its kind for the past five elections were full of cheatings. What is more, the last three or more years were years of political instability in some parts of the nation. For this particular reason, the media should play role by promoting the notion of peace, tolerance and belongingness.
Independent and pluralistic media is the characteristic of democratic society where different ideas are entertained freely and independently. For this particular reason, the media houses (be it printing or broadcasting) have to play their role constructively. If not, they could be misused for propaganda purposes and marred the longstanding culture of the society.
Ethiopians, even before the advent of electronics media, have an old culture of exchanging ideas. This culture is still intact in urban and rural areas. Whenever they get together for coffee, Ethiopians exchange information. This exchange of information has its best quality which is being missed in the modern media.
Whenever they exchange information, they always look for solutions. If not, they will pray for their creator for peace. However, these days, media, including social media, adhere to show the negative side of the story instead of capitalizing all the efforts on the peace of the nation and speaking the positive ones either for the sake of financial gain, personal fame or other reasons.
The coming election is a stepping stone for the nation in various dimensions. It is a bridge towards Ethiopia's bright future. It is a springboard for democratization where peoples' voice will be respected and heard. In this regard, while marking World Press Day under the theme of "Information as a Public Good" the media houses and individuals should capitalize their energy and time to serve the public.
As it was mentioned by Tesfaye, knowledge gap among the media personnel is leading some journalists to forget their societal responsibilities. Currently, conducive environment is created for media though there is still a problem in the side of the media to work for unity and peace as most of them prefer to focus on sensational news. This is too dangerous for national unity and peace.
According to him, while working for democracy and human rights, the media should know its role in nation building. There is a tendency to focus on event based news instead of creating critical analysis. This has created a gap in the profession. Whenever there is poor culture of working on project based news, analysis and features, the media only acts like parrot that repeat what it saw or heard. It would not add value to the nation. In this regard, the media has to work hard on knowledge based information instead of social-media based shallow knowledge. Above all, they should take in mind as Ethiopia is a home for different ethnic groups, and the significance of impartial media houses that can preach peace at the middle of chaos.
BY LEULSEGED WORKU