The word development began to bump with our ears during the late 1990s and early 2000s. What has been praise among Ethiopian government journalists and government cadres became an epitome for Ethiopian Television. The term has been everywhere in the last five years or so in Ethiopian pro-government and government media, across the front page of “Addis Zemen” and “The Ethiopian Herald” as the the concept of “Developmental Journalism” and “Development communication” engulfed government and EPRDF media empire in the form Fana Broadcasting Corporation and Walta Information Centre. There is an exciting magic to the term- development- that makes it irresistible to pro-government journalists. But showing footages of greenery with farmers harvesting cereals on Ethiopian television screen is not development. Neither is putting sky rocketing buildings of Addis Ababa with an interview of the so called some members of diasporas witnessing about the phenomenal economic and service devilry progress on television screen. Unless we’re ready to call “development” as Walta-lovment or ETV-lovement nothing in the Ethiopian government media news report fits the definition.

In order to illustrate this development obsessed government and pro-government media, let us take a typical but not entirely fictitious case of a pro-government media outlet for argument’s sake I will call it “Channel”. The paper has existed since the turn of the Ethiopian millennium. In order to gain conventional readership, the paper tries to look a critical opposition paper, but in order not to lose advertising returns and young readers, its editorials promoted the existence of a free market in Ethiopia and reports entertainment issues like sports and celebrities. It also appears to criticize the middle level authorities for being insufficiently democratic and proponents of red tape. But its editorials always underscore the economic breakthrough this country is making and never criticize top officials of the government. Relatively little or no space is given to current social and economic problems in Ethiopia. To frame for it, stories about achievements expected in Ethiopian economy over the next five, ten or fifteen years are presented as events which have already happened. Unsurprisingly, all future achievements are linked to GTP (Growth and Transformation Plan) of the Prime Minister.

The Ethiopian Television development related issue coverage is distinguished more by shoddy “infomercials” than by investigative piece and probing debate. “Addis Zeman” & “The Ethiopian Herald” newspapers are shameless partisans of their sponsor: the government, the well off party-EPRDF, and wealthy EPRD related businessmen. And the budding regional media in the form of FM Radios are even more strongly under the fist-of local EPRDF affiliates.

Ethiopian government policies that sprung up to struggle the ever rising tide of poverty go well with the consumption of the word development in the Ethiopian media. According to JOHN M. LAST “Human development can be viewed as the process of achieving an optimum level of health and well-being. It includes physical, biological, mental, emotional, social, educational, economic, and cultural components. … it is flawed by inherent inaccuracies, but it is nonetheless a useful comparative measure of the well-being of a population” but the government media’s use of the term is a mere propaganda type in nature and never consider all necessary components and its excessive use may cause disruption to the understanding of the term by the public in general.

By means of Google Trends

A Google Trends chart of the period between 2004 and today shows the prevalence of the word development in the media is ever escalating; news coverage of development since 2008 has grown by leaps and bounds. Some of this coverage might be about real human development in the country. But most of development news are fast and half truths riddled with inaccuracies and at times demeaning towards the so called “anti-development” and “anti-peace elements”
While people are dying in drought in remote provinces of Somali Region ETV and its friends like Walta make excellent shots of inauguration of a university or large flower farm around Addis as a big news, a lot more is going on in this country. Half truth is not the truth. That’s all government media needs to remember. Had the development as reported on these media been true we would not have had developed to famine. I rest my point!

One Response to “Developed to Drought? A Brief History of most misused government media’s beloved term: Development”

  1. Mehari

    It is very true!
    After reading this article I went to the Ethiopian News Agency website and these are some of the top stories they have.
    “Farmers secure over 162 million Birr through irrigation”
    “68 safe water facilities go operational”
    “Construction of safe water project well in progress”
    “Ethiopian registers encouraging results enabling it to achieve its 2025 vision”
    and it goes on and on …
    I bet “Channel” represents Capital, Addis Fortune and The Reporter
    Lets face it either they play along or they will end up in jail or on exile.

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