By Mizigena A
VOA and ESAT appeared to be identical twin actors in terms of bias and unfairness. Here, VOA refers to the Voice of America, Africa service broadcasted in English and Ethiopian languages. ESAT imply Ethiopian Satellite Television Amharic Program.
The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. In the same manner, the VOA charter in its preamble clearly stipulates that accuracy, balance, comprehensiveness, and objectivity are attributes audiences around the world to expect of VOA broadcasts and products. Likewise, ESAT in its founding document specifies as its primary editorial policy, “ESAT will serve as a conduit for citizens to express their opinion freely, to access reliable information and to play its part in the struggle to build democratic Ethiopia where the free flow of information is the cornerstone of a free country. In terms of theoretical and practical experiences, media to be effective, it must win the attention and respect of listeners. These principles include:
• Accuracy of information, objectivity and comprehensiveness,
• Respect to all segments of the societies regardless of race, color, religion, sex and age,
• Professional integrity to a respective organization,
• Aspiration for excellence and balanced broadcast, free of bias.
VOA in particular presumably pursues principles that accurate broadcasting, balanced and complete information to the people of the world, and particularly to those who are denied access to accurate news, serves to those who believe in freedom and democracy. The question is, do these two media harmonize their acts to their code of conducts (charter) or founding documents? Are they free from intentional bias? Are they serving the public having been fair, accurate and balance? How far they are comprehensive and contextual? VOA (Amharic Service) in particular and ESAT boast that their objective is providing accurate and balanced information to the people. They often heard accusing ETV and the press law in Ethiopia complaining that it is only the mouthpiece of the government. However, these two media agencies clearly revealed that they are promoting the interest of a given segment of people in Ethiopia who has strong adherent to the old chauvinistic feudal regimes and have a hidden motive to restore this dead and deep buried system in use of positions they held in Voice of America.
The relic of the past feudal thought in particular in Amhara region is still going strong and forcefully converting people to become only Amhara. Among the victim is Keemant nationality living in the Amhara Region, north Gondar administration zone. Kemant, during the past military and feudal region was recognized as one of Ethiopian nationality. Today, there are approximately one-million Kemants in this region, whom striving for their constitutional rights. These people have their own distinct culture, language and geographical congruent. According to the Federal Ethiopia constitution, it is up to that people to decide whether to be considered as a unique nationality or live under a single administration system with others. Of course, there are set criteria to be considered as unique nation, nationality and people. By virtue of the constitution, the Kemant people have requested the regional government for right of self administration for the last 10 years. But the reply by the regional government was, the “Kemant people have been converted irreversibly to the Amhara”. However the people have continued their peaceful struggle and appealed the issue to the House of Federation.
In the recent months, the people are holding demonstrations in Gondar City and other district towns to express their dissatisfaction with unnecessary delay in the House of Federation. As the part of the process, a huge demonstration took place in Gondar City on February 16, 2014. About 500,000 people took part in this demonstration to utter their grievance to the regional government and House of Federation to act urgently. But, no local and overseas media reported this event including VOA and ESAT. Even the VOA reporter in Addis Ababa, Eskinder Firew, declined to report the event. Had it been the other issues that goes against others (which I do not want to mention their name), they would have been the first to reported it. Why they chose to keep silent when it is the issue of Kemant? What moral do they have to accuse Ethiopian media for not being free while they are the worse? I believe, unless all Ethiopians rights respected, crying for democracy and unity will remain for vain and only waste of time. What kind of democracy and unity these media crying for? Now it becomes very clear who control ESAT and VOA, what their intention is, what they are crying for. I feel, it is not for Ethiopian unity, it is not for genuine democracy in Ethiopia rather for the restoration of their own group interest disregarding the people.
To your surprise both ESAT and VOA gave a broad coverage for the demonstration arranged in Bahirdar on Jan 23rd/2014 with objective of opposing the speech of Aleminew Mekonnen, ANDM secretary “against Amhara people”. To your wonder, ANDM cadres in north Gondar openly insult Kemant people, Kemant’s culture, Kemant’s language. Worse of all these, Kemant people assassinated by ANDM police and order of a simple woreda administration head in Metema woreda for a simple allegation of participating in Kemant freedom struggle. Many others have been dismissed from their work. The Tikildingay town residents were under military control for almost two weeks for a simple pretext of an intended public strike. The military/militia occupation had been arranged by Gondar Zone administration and other accomplices of the regional government officials. Why then VOA and ESAT refused to give coverage on all these incidences?
I would like to conclude that if (VOA and ESAT) want democracy and unity to work in Ethiopia, priority should be given to fairness and equality. Otherwise act as a mouthpiece of a given political party cannot bring about any solution. The US government should make sure in accordance with its laws and values, its media is not abused and used for suppression of others, especially minorities who have no their own radio and television service to express their views.