My name is Endalkachew Hilemikael Chala. I contracted Endalkachew into Endalk. Friends also call me Endalk, I find it easier to go by Endalk. Unlike in most of the western world in Ethiopia we use our father’s name in both formal and informal contexts. But I dropped my father’s name (Hilemikael) in favor of adopting my grandfather’s name (Chala) as a surname in accordance with western naming conventions after I came to the U.S in 2013.
Until I moved to Oregon, I lived in many parts of Ethiopia. I spent my formative age in Harar, an ancient and cosmopolitan town located in Eastern Ethiopia. While attending, elementary, middle and high schools, I lived in Ginchi, a town 45 miles West of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After high school, I studied English Language and Literature at Dilla University for four years. Then I left to Arba Minch University to start a career in teaching English. In Arba Minch, I found myself into a different career path – journalism. Believing a graduate education in journalism would enhance my journalism career I joined School of Journalism and Communications at Addis Ababa University in 2006. Up on finishing the graduate program at Addis Ababa I returned to Arba Minch to teach journalism. After five years of interweaving exercise of teaching and practicing journalism at Arba Minch I came to School of Journalism and Communications at University of Oregon in 2013.
Ethiopia, a police state and an aid darling for western powers, makes life so hard for journalists. Besides, because of my contractual commitment with Arba Minch University I was not able to have a stable journalism career but I always enjoy writing contextual and nuanced journalistic pieces about Ethiopia- my central intellectual theme as well as my focus for action. My pieces have appeared on The Guardian and Global Voices. Some of my works were also featured on Washington Post, BBC and NPR.
As a part of my journalistic endeavor, I co-founded Zone9, a blogging collective in 2012. In Ethiopia, we have not followed the global trend of migrating from newspapers to online media. Government’s crackdown on newspapers forced us to adopt the internet as the only viable alternative platform. Unfortunately, the Ethiopian government spared no one. Six of my Zone9 colleagues spent 16 months in prison, our crime was using the internet as a platform to tell stories. The arrest and the trial of my colleagues propelled the case into the global spotlight and showed that the Ethiopian government silences dissent and mutes thought whether it is on print or online.
My research interest lays at the intersection of new media and journalism. Researching non-profit public relations and framings of social movements are also among my interest. Currently, at University of Oregon I am writing a dissertation on ‘The Influence of Exiled Journalism in Ethiopia’s Homeland Politics’. The primary aim of my research is to examine and analyze the journalistic practices and functions of exiled media. More specifically, my dissertation focuses on the experience of Ethiopia’s exiled journalists based in the United Sates. I am investigating the evolution and purpose of the two main US. based exiled media organizations, Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and Oromo Media Network (OMN) in relation to their influence in the politics of Ethiopia. It explores the journalistic practice and media operations in the context of exile and in relation to the dynamics of homeland politics.
I enjoy learning through translation. I along with my Zone9 colleagues started the Amharic version of Global Voices through which I have learned a great deal of digital storytelling and citizen journalism. I picked up some internet security skills and learned about encryption while I translate, Surveillance Self Defense, an internet security guide that helps people protect their online security. Occasionally I do translate literary pieces as well.
I am an internet enthusiast. With all the recent drawbacks of fake news, misinformation and polarizations on the internet, I believe having access to the platform is fundamental, particularly for a country like Ethiopia. For that end, I do participate in activism that would advance internet access and preserve net neutrality.
I’ve been fortunate to receive few prizes for some of my work. Our Zone9 initiative won several awards. In 2015, I won International Press Freedom Award. In the same year, we won Reporters’ Without Borders Press Freedom Prize in the citizen-journalist category. We were also finalists for Martin Ennals Human Rights Awards in 2016. We were also nominated for Index of Censorship Award in 2015 and 2016. Individually, I won a Google Policy Fellowship and spent ten weeks at Electronic Fortier Foundation as a Google Policy Fellow in the Summer of 2014. I was a receiver of Colombia Scholarship at School of Journalism and Communications from 2013 to 2016. In the summer of 2012, I was selected to attend Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute
Twitter is my preferred communication platform. I use it to communicate bits and pieces of information, mostly news about Ethiopia and academic articles related to my field of study. On my website, which I have been running since 2010, I write my reflections and share resources.