Last week “The Capital”, one of the three weekly English newspapers ran an article about “Members of Ethiopian Media decision to set up media council and enact code of conduct” where they describe the council as a self-regulatory body which set to examine complaints submitted to the media council by the public or any concerned individuals and encourages the conduct of professional journalism.
I would say this initiative is a laughable yet a superior cause! You might question why a superior cause is a ridiculous one. Here is why…
In a country where every private journalist and independent newspapers are shuttered by the government the idea of establishing media council and enacting code of conduct is pathetic, meaningless, sickening and denigrating. Looking the rough media landscape in which Ethiopian journalists are forced to operate it might help you understand my claims.
According to CPJ research Ethiopia is a country which has driven more journalists into exile over the past decade than any other nation in the world; harassment and constant threat of imprisonment being major reasons of journalists to flee. Besides Ethiopia is a country where mere news coverage of rebel and opposition groups is criminalized under controversial 2009 anti-terrorism law. State media and pro-government journalists are consistently accusing exiled journalists for having hidden political agenda and or sometimes pro-government journalists describe exiled journalists as terrorism supporters.
So I want to challenge the organizers of the initiative in public how can one establish a media council where seventy nine journalists exiled just in a decade 2001-11 and eleven journalists imprisoned on terrorism related charges? Depressingly despite the frozen Ethiopian media environment the government is still poignant for a stronger clampdown on private media. With authorities tormenting journalists and shuttering, Feteh, a pitiable weekly Amharic newspaper left right and centre, Ethiopian journalists now faced another loss of a democratic right, their right to freedom of speech and information. How can you institute an independent media council which is essential to journalistic alliance?
I would suggest you to cancel the complete idea of establishing a media council! It’s no more than a particularly self-righteous and hypocritical group which shouts to give the impression of “We are striving for a professional journalism even in a destitute situation” I see the purpose of the media council is to self –regulate to help keep at a distance government’s interference with the media content, ? Ooh, journalists even blogger are getting abused, they put up with the brunt of unconstitutional media laws:Help them fight to take back their basic human right before you start to regulate yourselves!
Exiled/Diasporic Media Regulatory Body A Possibility?
Ethiopian journalists who are exiled to America/Europe have taken the internet as an opportunity to set up an online media that not only serve as important sources of information for many ordinary Ethiopians and traditional journalists back home but that also reveal sensitive government information. It is the diaspora media that first broke the ongoing where is Prime Minster Meles Zenawi saga. This indicates the influence of the Ethiopian diasporic/exiled media on Ethiopian politics. What is missing, however, —is recognition the role which the Ethiopian diaspora media can play in showing how self-regulation of media protects the right of journalists to be independent, and to be judged for professional mistakes not by those in politics but by their colleagues. Consequently it is not uncommon these days to see people blame the Ethiopian diasporic media for their continuous shabby and low standards journalism: inaccurate, unfair and irresponsible reporting lack/ inadequate media code and code in respect of being unaligned to the internationally agreed press/media protocols and independent appeal mechanism, among others.
Hence I wonder if they consider grabbing hold the of idea of establishing a media council from pro-government group of people and take the initiative to get rid of the political riff-raff from media control and work with the sole purpose as an objective diaspora media monitoring body.