The demise of newspapers will demise budding newspaper readers

In the Western world, from a news and information perspective, there is the belief the demise of traditional newspaper organizations is due in great part to the growth of Internet but her e in Ethiopia newspapers which are suffering from low circulation due to low literacy rates and scarcity of diversity which in turn resulted in poor distribution outside of the capital will be demised from price increase in the publishing industry.
Last week, most of the private newspapers of Addis Ababa presented their plight sternly of being on market. The newspapers reported that more will shrink and die if government does not stop aggressive pricing on the publishing industry. All newspapers were gloomy about the newspaper business with this reason. They reported that all over their newsrooms, rising costs have squeezed profit margins of newspaper publishers to the lowest point since they started publishing.
Even though circulation, ad revenue and total income were sluggishly increasing in most of the private newspapers I selected for this piece, costs have shot up faster. Two biggest cost factors for newspapers in Addis Ababa: 1) newsprint, which accounts for about 50% of the total costs for most of weekly papers, has risen by 40% to 50% this year; 2) employment costs, especially for journalists and support staff, have gone up as much as 30% due salary increment because of hyper inflation in the country in the same period.
As a result, the future for Ethiopia’s finger counted weeklies is unwelcoming. Even papers who like to consider themselves primarily “developmental and positive to the regime’s power” find themselves in dilemma. Even bi weeklies as the wealthy and institutionalized, The Reporter will be hard hit. Newspapers with smaller circulation will be wiped out. Aggressive pricing on publishing industry have already taken their toll. Last week one of the weekly reported that it will cease from being on market.
Price increases are not the only causes for demise of Ethiopia’s newspapers. Over the last several years a number of Ethiopia’s newspapers have gone out of business ordinarily because of multifaceted heavy government involvement on private press. When a newspaper shuts down almost all of its readers just disappears – unlike the Westerners, Ethiopian readers will not turn their attention to internet rather they will simply turn inactive readers

Should Condoms On Campus Be Free?

A Condom box
People are discussing whether condoms should be free on campus and considered as a preventive care under wider framework of anti HIV/ AIDS campaign of the country.

On my way to office every morning I pass by to the students’ clinic on campus but I find it tough to pass over at a condom box which reads – የኮንዶም ሳጥን -on the verandah of the clinic. The condoms are packed off in the container at no cost primarily for students but teachers and university workers can get if there is any urgent thump that necessitate a condom. DKT Ethiopia covers the bulk of the cost of the condoms. Kaleb*, senior electrical engineering student walks to the clinic and takes as many as he wants whenever the need arrives. Kaleb is grateful for DKT Ethiopia’s assistance. “I know so many students who need to use condoms, and they can’t because they are embarrassed of buying condoms from shops and sometimes condoms cost too much money.” he says. “This is frightening because that doesn’t mean they aren’t having sex.”

If not all but many of Ethiopian universities’ health centers have been handing out condoms to students for free since my time in Dilla College as an undergraduate student, but the issues of providing condoms for students in the campus have always been held under social dead bolt and are not discussed adequately. Now days as citizens start to discuss sexual taboo issues openly on the newly emerging FM-Radios however, that could all change. Hence, whether condoms falls under the preventive remedy and whether condoms should be deemed preventive medicine—and hence, free in the campuses —has sparked a debate from university students to teachers.

That’s because, should condoms available openly and freely, universities coeds across the country would be able to access it for free—something not all parents and educators think is a good idea. “Everyone is talking about it,” says Kaleb. “And everyone has an opinion.”
Supporters of offering condoms to students on campus freely argue that it would give students more independence over their sexual health and reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and STD cases at universities each year. “I have heard from many university students,” says one health worker of Arba Minch University students’ clinic. “And students feel very strongly about condoms being both free and accessible on campus.” He adds that condom is a lifesaving remedy and that offering it for free is “socially and economically responsible.” But opponents say free condoms will increase promiscuity and may even contribute to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Since condoms first became available on campus free seven years ago when I was in Dilla College, many proponents of offering free condoms to students on campus have credited it with everything from reducing unplanned pregnancies to decreasing the rate of HIV/AIDS amongst students. But how to access it have always been surrounded by controversy.

Kaleb* found that college students, in particular, are facing more barriers in trying to get condoms. Most of them are not financially independent, and often it’s logistically difficult to get condoms make due to lack of condom shops around universities campuses. On top of these buying condoms from shops freely has still big social shame amongst students. If condoms were available on campus, students could simply walk over to the condom box. In a document produced by DKT, that describes students’ condoms use in selected Ethiopian universities notes that the culture of condom use in universities is very law and it is costing many students with their life in the shape of unsafe abortion and STDs. “That’s not a price students should pay ,” says Kaleb.
Some of the teachers I have talked with for this piece don’t all agree that offering free condoms on campus is a good idea, though most maintain that the benefits far outweigh any risks. “Promoting condom use on campus is very safe for most students,” says an instructor who teaches in one of the health sciences departments of Arba Minch University. “Providing free condoms will decrease unplanned pregnancies, unfulfilled dreams, and early dropout from universities. We have an opportunity here to shape students’ lives for the better.”

But, that might not always be the case, says other teacher from same college of medicine and health sciences. He said he fears the condoms would lead to an increase in sexual promiscuity on campuses. What’s more, there might even be an increase in unplanned pregnancies, because many students do not use condoms correctly. Condom is effective only when it is used correctly. “Providing condoms to students might drive them to unnecessary sexual wishes,” he says. “Instead we should be teaching our students about being abstain from sex so they know when they start enjoying sex.”

Opponents often publicize abstinence-only education instead. But students such as Kefle are skeptical abstinence-only education work. “The answer is definitely not having students abstain from sex,” he says. “We are adults. We are going to have sex, and if the condom isn’t available, sex just isn’t going to be as safe.” What can you say?

*All names are changed for the sake of privacy

Is it wrong to ridicule on ethnicity and political understandings of some Ethiopians?

In the last five years, the number of casually created political and ethnicity jokes in Ethiopia have been circulated amongst Ethiopians on mobile phones and CDs. Some hardliner opponents of these jokes described the situation as it has reached dangerously high level. These people accused the jokes by claiming that these “shaggy dog stories” regularly stereotype certain ethnic groups.

I remember how the oppressed jokes (Yetechekonu Keledoch) have offended many people and yet was and still is being enjoyed by many. As always there were unconfirmed rumors that all the comedians who participated in “Yetechekonu Keledoch” were imprisoned for a while because they have “offended” peoples’ languages and political understandings of some ethnic groups. It was not clear what offended people most of the comedians fake Amharic accent (whether people are offended because the fake accent is not convincing enough or the fact that the comedians mimicked Amharic as a second language speaker’s accent in the first place, is unclear anyway). But one thing is fact “Yetechekonu Keledoch” was a trend setter. To barely surprising, really; in the past, comedians are enjoying maximum security as they make the jokes informally using mobile phones and circulate them through mobile phones. These make this fad even difficult as it is not easy to trace and jail the mobile phone comedians unlike “Yetechekonu Keledoch” comedians. Therefore; mobile phone comedians have incensed the ardent opponents of these jokes and to their shock the comedians are in the den and nothing scares them so they kept on their mockery. But is it wrong to ridicule on ethnicity and political understandings of some Ethiopians? Are the jokes are wide of the mark?

I say as long as these jokes reflect the context of our society; I do not want to regard them as incredibly wide of the mark.

This may sound like a very imaginary idea but it isn’t. There are hundreds, if not thousands of ethnicity and political jokes across Ethiopia that aim to mock specifically Amharic languages’ of different ethnic groups and political understanding of a certain group of people. Some people would like to put the blame on theses jokes for putting these “cultural and political sensitive issues” to public though jokes. They said these jokes are awful practices which would help a lot to instigate racism, prejudice and discrimination in Ethiopia. They further their arguments that government should establish formal organizations in order to curb these practices.

But I say we Ethiopians have better things to be bothered about than protest over some jokes on mobile phone. Though I do not have conducted research on the matter most of the jokes circulated on mobile phones ridiculed every ethnic group equally. Most of the characters are making a mockery of their own ethnic group as well. For me most of the comedians’ fake Amharic accent is funny and I don’t care whether people are offended because the fake accent is not convincing enough or the fact that the comedians mimicked Amharic as a second language speaker’s accent. I will only take the funny part.

Honestly speaking I do not believe that these ethnicity or political jokes stereotype certain ethnic groups. I have observed that comedians make ethnic jokes about all Ethiopia’s ethnic groups, including their own. On top of that I do not generalize about an entire group of people based on one ethnic joke from a certain culture or a certain ethnic group.

I have a message for ardent opponents of these jokes. Any fundamental change starts from within. We can’t be fighting stereotyping or generalizing by opposing ethnicity jokes if our own behavior shows otherwise. When you listen ethnic jokes; tell yourself that all members of that ethnic group are not all “like that”. Remind yourself that a certain guy who tried to theft from you in the market like Merekato is not an indication that all people in Merekato are cheaters, etc. Expand your social circle outside of “your own kind”. When you expand your social circle to include Ethiopians of all ethnic backgrounds, you do not only realize the ethnic jokes are just jokes you will also broaden your own horizons and develop a warm relationship with others. Do not fight ethnic jokes as it clearly hampers freedom expression. What do you think?

Sparkles of hope in the midst of murkiness amongst Ethiopian online communities

Ethiopians online are trying to inspire each other for an Egyptian style revolution to shake loose of two decades of EPRDF rule , the Ethiopian online communities of micro blogging platforms such as facebook and twitter and blogging platforms such as wordpress are stumbling towards balanced argumentations and debates on the possibilities of Egyptians style revolutions on Ethiopian soil too. The early results signify vast online behavioral shifts.
Ethiopians online communities have long been dominated by ethnically divided and highly opinionated posts of arguments and debates, as it is still true in much of the Ethiopian blogospheres. Ethiopian bloggers at the state-sponsored blogs in and out of Ethiopia have traditionally been blind to the most pressing issues of Ethiopia while casting prime minster Melese Zenawi as a wise, judicious and prudent African leader who represents Africans on global assemblies. But bloggers journalists and social media users who are dare enough to lay a hand on “taboo” issues of EPRDF like corruption, ethnic federalism, land grab, constitutional reform and deteriorating quality of education will face prison or heavy fines. Blogs and even facebook pages that offended the regime are simply being filtered based on their IP addresses, which is quite similar with the Chinese style internet censorship. As the country’s sole internet service provider is government owned Ethiopian Telecom Corporation, apparently it is effortless to follow and point out independent bloggers which would definitely followed by harassments by government. Recently Ethiopian media have reported that police detained the well-known journalist Eskinder Nega for “attempts to incite” Egypt-style protests.
It came as no surprise that when Addis Neger ‘s newspaper facebook page; the first mainstream newspaper( in fact it was closed in Addis nearly two years ago) to embrace blogs and the social networking environment, defied techniques of internet censorship and continued saturation reporting of Ethiopian governments “taboo” issues, its website is blocked , its facebook page filtered out through its IP address . But Addis Neger’s facebook page and other social media outlets persevered thanks to technology. Along with a group of anonymous insiders and leakers of information to Addis Neger, bloggers and social media users, the Ethiopian social media cemented its place as the alternative for Ethiopian online communities to the state-run media such as ETV’s, Addis Zemen’s or Aigaforum’s lies.
In so doing, the Ethiopian social media communities underscored the necessity of honest, insiders leaked information and fearless reporting and rational debate based on the available information as a prerequisite for democratic change. The strongest message from all Ethiopians social media users across almost all ethnic lines to Ethiopians from Washington to Oslo from Cape Town to Melbourne is that stories that speak the truth and debates that are rational carry the most power.
As the Maghreb initiated and social media supported revolutions started to shatter the region’s despotic regimes of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya the Ethiopian social media communities began to change dramatically as the Ethiopian social media communities discovered their voices and consciences. They are trying to make their points heard in the most possible rational ways .They are forming groups such as Yedil Qen የድል ቀን , Ethiopian Revolution and others . Such groups are few of the Ethiopia’s fledge ling online groups and they frequently share links of videos or websites which reported accounts of Ethiopian government officials’ corruption or lootings as some hardliners described it. These groups also conduct debates which host most of the EPRDF regime’s critic, and the most ardent opponents of the current regime are challenging the state media specifically ETV and the so called critical citizens on the possibilities of the Egyptian style revolutions for spreading a “culture of fear”. Journalists at ETV the government’s main mouthpiece, and at Addis Zemen another state-run paper, tried to give explanations on the causes of Arab revolutions. In doing so they try to frame the ongoing Arab revolutions in the perspective of EPRDF’s interpretation which has reliance on exaggeration or outright lies .They attempted to show that all other perspectives of the revolutions are given by people who are working in decrying corruption of journalism and they say all journalists who tried to give explanation regarding the possibilities of revolution in Ethiopia lack professionalism.
Some high-profile government journalists and workers in Ethiopian Telecom Corporation informed me on anonymous bases that EPRDF is being worried of the Arab revolution and some high profile government officials are insisting and giving orders to continue broadcasting propaganda and monitoring the state of the Ethiopian social media.
While the inspiration of Ethiopian online communities’ revolutionary thought fate will remain unclear, some prominent Ethiopian political environment commentators like Alemahyehu Gebermariam , addressed the issue of the possibilities of Ethiopian revolution as a real possibility in his regular post of Huffington post column, saying, “Africa’s Youths United Can Never be Defeated.”
This newfound enthusiasm and honesty amongst Ethiopian online community is only will able to flourish after a path have continuously been cleared both by journalists in exile and social media users who sometimes risk their lives openly defying the government through their facebook pages . Despite the fear of being beaten or arrested many social media users and bloggers persisted, bolstering morale by churning out arguments and debates on the possibilities of Ethiopian revolution.
Especially facebook, together with some prominent social media networks became electronic public spheres, delivering both news regarding Ethiopia and Ethiopians as well as charting participants’ emotions as they raced between desolation, despair and anger of the current regime of Ethiopia. Unlike failed argumentations and debates drives by more established blogs and paltalk groups of Ethiopia, diaspora and urban youth-driven facebook pages are assembling thousands of supporters online and united disparate sectors of the eighty-million-peoples nation across the globe.
Just as the Tunisian upheaval inspired Egypt’s protestors, Ethiopian exiled journalists, scholars and the diasporas online communities cannot ignore what is happening in Ethiopia, the most populous sub-Saharan country. Although much of Ethiopia’s media live under the thumb of the government, political parties, and concerned groups, or others who think they own the truth, Ethiopia is trying to show and inspire that revolution in Ethiopia is the real possibility .
Ethiopian facebook groups are sprouting, angering and frustrating authorities in Addis Ababa . Different members of budding facebook groups and few Ethiopian bloggers are showing new daring in their arguments and are coordinating across the globe on facebook.
Ethiopian bloggers and members of revolutionary facebook groups who are residing in Ethiopia face great challenges even beyond government bullying: low connectivity, low technical expertise of different blogging platforms and self censorship. Though facebook groups and bloggers discussions of Ethiopian revolutionary messages is raging on facebook groups’ performance resembles more of a “crash-landing.” It is good that honest discussions and arguments is gathering steam, but discussions regarding its real possibilities, who will lead the revolution ,how does it begun what will happen after the revolution not yet surging from Ethiopians home because no one do not know what lay ahead.
But after fellow North Africans forced Ben Ali and Mubarak to resign, most Ethiopians online saw the future and rose to embrace it. They inspire each other with a stunning, bright,Green, Yellow and Red iconic Ethiopian flags and are being inviting one another to be involved with groups like Yedil Qen የድል ቀን

Facebook citizens of hypocrisy: Can a petition page on facebook change Ethiopia’s image of western media?

Is this yet another cause that is doomed to not change anything at all?
Recently, a petition page which demands the removal of Ethiopia’s reference to famine from Oxford Dictionary is being circulated amongst Ethiopians facebook community. I was eager to see how different it would be from the ones I see every now and then on facebook.
With growing excitement, I clicked on the link. There is a page which reads “I am an Ethiopian and am not starving” with a distressing story of how Ethiopia is analogous with famine.
As time went by and people started to become a member of this petition group, I realized it is typical Ethiopian campaigns on facebook where you see mob yelling by saying do not identify me as a starved. People click on the page some might like it at their own convenience, voiced their opinions on the available space. It is just like a signing petition; but nobody knows to whom the letters will be addressed to.
Now the petition group grows around 5,248 members for the cause I guess these people are full of energy and they are screaming online, excitedly by saying I am an Ethiopian and not starving
But I think not a single one of them seemed to care about many Ethiopians who are really starving. It is all about being online and using facebook, holding the best ideology free issues, putting slogans on facebook, and most importantly, getting coverage from the media specifically the western media.
On my first glance apart from the annoyances of countless invitation of Ethiopian causes on my facebook page, I admit I thought it was fantastic initiative. I felt these people are most responsible Ethiopian citizens on earth; folks who care for the good image of Ethiopia, folks who would stand against the stereotype of western media to make a difference.
But I was wrong.
I soon realized that the petition page which demands the removal of Ethiopia’s reference to famine from Oxford Dictionary don’t bring any change at all. They are really just groups of people on social media networks who are trying to represent the other image of Ethiopia or showing that they have a ‘voice’.

Watching from the sidelines
Although it may be the best way of showing the western media has stereotyped Ethiopians with a single story of famine and starvation that every Ethiopian wants to end these stereotypes, I strongly believe it certainly cannot make a difference. And since what I hope do is bring real change, I refused to join this facebook petition group.
Unlike the middle-eastern ground breaking social transformations or say it revolutions, this petition pages don’t have the power to bring about change. This is because the western media that helped a lot in creating the stereotype are not ready to be a part of the change this facebook pages are seeking. On top of this I believe facebook petitions are easy, participation and bringing the actual change is difficult.
Can these people change the image of Ethiopia by removing Ethiopia’s reference to famine from Oxford Dictionary? Will Ethiopia emerge with a new image amongst the west?
Will the likes of BBC,CNN, or Hollywood stop producing films or making news which frames Ethiopia with famine or starvation? Above all to some extent are we not starved? Are we really committed to defy the stereotype of starvation of famine and starvation? If this is how things stand, I refuse to sign this petition. What do you think?

CNN’s Citizen Journalism, iReport goes wrong with false report on mass protests in Southern Ethiopia

Why does this happen? Why is it that as a people are trying to dismiss the half truths reporting of government media such as ETV, they themselves make an outright lie? Why is that we have such difficulties in dealing with truth?

I am asking these questions as CNN’s thrust into online citizen- journalism miscarry last Monday when the CNN’s posted what turned out to be actually fake report claiming that in a similar manner and scale to the Northern African revolutionary protests, a mass protest and civil disobedience has swept the Southern Ethiopian towns of Gamu Gofa and its vicinities since Monday 7 March 2011.

As I am in Arba Minch, people who come to know this story by chance has been nagging me if there is such uprising in Arba Minch. For my shock some of my facebook friends do not want to believe me even after I have confirmed them that the story posted on CNN’s is a bogus story.

For me this event underscores the need for Ethiopians to behave rightly with their genuine identity. On top of that big news organizations such as CNN must try to verify content generated by users before it is published. As it has been said many times citizen journalism is very powerful influence when harnessed the right way, but sometimes it goes awry as it clearly did in this case. I consider this incident is an attempt to abuse the beauty of citizen journalism.

I remember in the not-so-long past that we did not have such kind of citizen journalism media and we could not report on rural community activities. And it is good to have citizen journalist including the one who lied on CNN iReport but the problem is the same citizen journalist who is accusing ETV and other government media proposing himself as another alternative media to silence the government media propaganda. This is hypocrisy. On top of this I do not want another ETV as I am tired of it already. If ESAT had already reported these crap fabrications of mass protest what difference it has with ETV.

CNN describes iReport as a place for “unedited, unfiltered news” and said it “makes no guarantee about the content or coverage.’ But who does have such uplifted media literacy to understand this crap and leave it. This is a stupid approach to ignite revolution. It benefits nobody but those hiding something. What do you think?

Battleground facebook: The right way to discuss the possibilities of mass movement

How effective facebook is?

My friend, a fellow social media skeptic, asked me, “What social media has brought to this world? Answer: “Social media has facilitated if not brought revolution to Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and many more Middle East countries who knows may be …. .”

If any amongst us had doubts about the impacts of social media networks such as facebook and twitter, they were most certainly removed after following the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions unfold on facebook pages, twitter updates and blog posts of Egyptians and Tunisians.

To further substantiate social media’s credentials as the peoples’ news network that brings forth the people’s perspective devoid of governments’ agenda, I can tell you this; some condemned it especially facebook, some dictators like in Iran allegedly said they wanted to ban it and all those hardliners of course banned it. For over a month till the ouster of Hosni Mubarak I found myself drawn into the romanticism, passion and hope that only a true peoples’ revolution can inspire.

I followed facebook and twitter phenomenal updates and posts of the Egyptian revolution through its live streaming on internet from embedded journalists of different news networks reporting live from the ground. Alongside, I kept a close watch on the coverage by western mainstream channels I had access to, namely BBC and CNN and for pure comparison reasons Ethiopian Television.

The effectiveness of social media networks such as the facebook and twitter only becomes evident when users report the movement such as the Egyptian revolution that is as fluid, volatile, and populist, with their own angles and perspectives. What a specific facebook post or twitter updates chooses to reinforce, what they choose to downplay, the language they frame it in and the approach they adopt has huge implications on the opinions the millions of facebook users or twitter followers  detached from the ground reality will formulate.

Diverse angles, diverse content

Every now and then when I log on to facebook, I see messages or arguments posted or links shared by different members of groups such as Yedil Qen የ ድል ቀን which could be summed up as how Ethiopian can adapt Egyptian style revolution or instigating people to such kind of  revolution.

Unless one is a kindergartner, her brain processes words as fast as her eyes see them. Every time someone joins these groups, I automatically end up reading the possibility of revolutions in Ethiopian context, which most supporters of the current regime would otherwise try to avoid it. A cadre friend of mine told me that he finds himself clenching his fists with frustration. He believes joining such groups to find out who are active participants in the groups is only propagating them. He said he is tired of posting arguments which argues against those who proposes revolutionary ideas.

I’m impressed by those pages as much as anyone else is. But for me to trying to mobilize our entire country for a revolution through random facebook users is almost as futile as the page itself. I say futile because no facebook page is growing as fast as the Egyptians facebook pages or most subscribers to the pages are Ethiopians residing abroad.

Arguing peacefully

When one group member tries to be as rational as possible regarding the possibilities of revolution some group members might dub him/her as a cadre and some hardliners might even start campaign deliberately designed to spread a buzz by touting the words “Leave us alone!  You are deliberately making us coward! Is your job to threaten us?” and others the Egyptians didn’t dub each other on facebook pages as cadres or supporter of Mubarak regime  or shout slogans on their pages as we sometimes do in our facebook pages. They argued peacefully without tarnishing each other with different tags. Rather they try to argue in a civilized manner so that the whole public will get rid of unnecessary bias and fear.

Yelling, tarnishing and dubbing isn’t argument

Maybe we’re used to raising our voices to get what we want. Spoiled children get what they want at home by throwing a fit, but that doesn’t work in the classroom. On our facebook pages and groups, yelling or tarnishing or dubbing people do not solve problems. I know there is a trend even in our schools the kid that talk louder and get angrier or making fun of others during debate competitions are the ones that win, but this kind of arguments to get what we want will never work on facebook especially when dealing with people from different walks of life discussing some serious issues like revolutions.

People who share their arguments in an offensive manner not only fail to realize that what they’re doing annoys others; they are also helping the real cadres to divide the arguments along many lines. By all means try to make your points in a manner which foster critical thinking. I’m hoping the sharers of expletives against the possibilities of revolutionary ideas on facebook do the same. What do you think?