Recent happening on the in Addis Ababa have once again elevated the anxiety the of the already weaken minority members of the free press in the country. Members of government media tried to skyjack the occasion of World Press Freedom Day organized by members of the free press, UNESCO and others is a case in point. For me the incident would colorfully illustrate the disturbances that members of the free press have gone through for the last 20 years. Yes it did. And for thriving bloggers like myself is also a cause for concern.
But why the government would like to take such inconsiderate actions against the free media? Is the already depleted media too critical of government? The Amharic version of the Reporter shed light on the issue in a recently published article on the controversial incident of World Press Freedom Day (the article can be viewed here). And with a title like “የፕሬስ ነፃነት የተዳጠበት የፕሬስ ቀን” it’s not hard to see whose side the Reporter is taking.
The article takes a swipe at people who were persona non grata on the occasion, accusing them of using a back stage anti-free media techniques to involve themselves in the event and hijack the occasion on their favor. People from government communication department receive the majority of the blame for their needlessly persistent attempt against free discussion titled: 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers and the article has also indicated that government people with a select “free” media people were successful in their premeditated shameless attempt to swing the pre-arranged schedule of the event.
I certainly don’t dispute the fact that government might have attempted to swing the event in its own favor and target people from free media. In the last fortnight alone reports from freedom house and committee to protect journalists, whose website are blocked in Ethiopia, have been surfacing indicating the appalling state of the Ethiopian free media. It just seems funny to me that this comes as a shock to the Reporter, who is rumored to be government sympathizer.
But let me not split hairs. Rather than pointing each bits of the incident as it is presented by the Reporter it might be more pertinent to raise the fundamental question: Why does the government desires to hijack the occasion? After all, there must be some reason why the government is so interested in involving itself in the discussion which would have hosted disparage the government’s role in weakening the free press of Ethiopia in the last five years. So why?
One possible reason is that such incidents in the eyes of the government appeals to the anti-government sentiments of the free media, hence starting to involve and controlling such events will help a lot to demoralize members of the free media. For some of you this argument might not hold water, and you may say that it is evident that government is always affectionate of accusations and tarnishing of the free press for being anti-government. But in recent times I have not heard of a single occasion where any government official has shown their eagerness to participate in the affairs of the “private” press as a government. Nor have I heard government interest to cooperate with free media. On the contrary I have seen plenty of legal and political catharsis dished out against the members of free media. Therefore, the government has a grand ambition in participating in events such as World Press Freedom Day.
Could it perhaps be because government wants to have facade of democratic governments? Is it because the government wants the message to get across for institutes like the UNESCO? From the behavior our rulers it is evident that they do not care for face values of democracy even when it matters the most. But this point would have been convincing only if our rulers engaged in actions which have direct effect on our media which would have counted a point in return for the face value of our democracy. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Every action of our leaders has tremendous repercussions on us all, and most of them are far from positive.
The only possible conclusion in my opinion is linked to the genuine purpose of trying to control each and every bit of information in the country. Besides this, there is a sudden explosive reports from various international organizations which frames the Ethiopian government as complete adversary of free press. And this is a point of concern for Ethiopian government.
Anyway this event unavoidably put the members of the free media in the incredibly important position to voice the worry of the member of the free media people, an obvious privilege that will never be granted to Ethiopian Television journalists. Shockingly we are in a period when some of government officials are nicknamed on the basis of corruption and opposition political parties are mockingly referred to as ‘friendly opposition’, the free media online or print should emerged as the single steward spanning across the political landscape, bringing the views of the common man in front of the entire nation.

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