Journalists detention a point of concern for Ethiopian bloggers as well???

In an information being released in a mood of concern early June, by CPJ and voiced by Ethiopian media both online and offline it is reported that two journalists, Wubeshet Taye and Réyot Alemu, are currently in detention in Ethiopia and most probably if the accounts on the issue are to be trusted the later will be litigated on the basis of the country’s anti-terrorism laws.
As I have tried to understand the case from various reports a common thread in both cases of journalists’ incarceration is that the Ethiopian authorities have declined to admit any detention of journalists. Worse even, many people do not have a clue weather the cause of the journalists’ detention is related with their job or not. But given that the detainee journalists are members of the critical private press and in the past so many journalists from the private press have been either jailed or exiled, and that every one of them have been critical of the government, I have to be honest that I have found it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Wubeshet Taye and Réyot Alemu are being targeted because of their work.
Most probably a new atmosphere of fear will escalate with these arrests and that is what worries me. Here is why. It is going to be tougher to reflect one’s opinion on the country’s state of affairs with such kind of unendurable condition anywhere in the world, but particularly in a country like Ethiopia that seeks to work out hard to fit journalists’ opinions into country’s 2009 anti-terrorism laws. Though Ethiopia recognizes freedom of expression as a fundamental right in its constitution its continuous behavior on its own critical journalists calls into question not only its desire but also its ability to commit to the values of its own constitution.
If a certain Ethiopian journalist linked to any of the recently claimed “terror” groups by the Ethiopian parliament have regularly been targeted under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism laws. It is still fresh to my memory how Ethiopian Television, government’s major mouthpiece in its documentary, has tried to demonize members of the Ethiopia’s private press and instigated government for the harshest punishments of journalists.
The relative lack of audacious alternative private press in the last three years in Ethiopia media landscape is slowly has been changed with the emergence of weeklies such as Awramba Times, Feteh and others. I strongly believe these newspapers are trying their best to be the alternative media and plaster the vacuum left by Addis Neger newspaper owing to the exile .But the recent waves of arrests will pose a great threat to re-budding of private newspapers. Far from being slanderous dissidents, journalists and bloggers as well who investigate and criticize Ethiopia’s government actions exhibit true devotion to the cause of democracy, because no democracy can endure without the open and autonomous assessment of public policies that bloggers and journalists provide. If Ethiopian government truly wishes to be considered as emerging democracy in Africa, its leaders must not hold freedom of the press in contempt. I rest my point.

What happens on facebook remains on facebook: The “Beka” revolution evangelists on facebook revisited

Since the removal of Ben Ali and H.Mubarak some momentous developments have occurred on the Ethiopians online media landscape. In the last five months the creation and flowering of some facebook groups whose major tasks were to inspire Egyptian style revolution in Ethiopia have captured the attention of both diaspora and homeland readers and political analysts. Major Ethiopian media whose focus was the “Beka” Revolution tried to cover and analyze the possibilities of such revolution from nearly every angle

In many of this facebook groups especially in prominent ones like Yedil Qen የድል ቀን with 13364 members we see members who tried to show the menacing features of the ruling regime. Other members act like hooded militants presenting themselves to a condition of a dream collecting their focus at purportedly planned “Day of Rage” which was May 28 2011. They all insist that they would change “Meskel Square” to a kind of Egyptian “Tahrir Square” Most of the group members’ share links videos and audios, post rich colorful graphics which tried to illustrate the atrocities of the current regime.

The Facebook page of Yedil Qen የድል ቀን in the heat of discussion before May 28 2011

Group members were also engaged themselves in publishing breaking news stories. They put and create links to the Web addresses of major Ethiopian diasporic media that have an online presence, some consistent participant of group members of Yedil Qen የድል ቀን periodically posts high-impact and controversial news stories of corruption and maladministration of EPRDF. They collect this news both from the domestic newspapers and from diasporic online media. They also invite discussion to other group members. This feature has made Yedil Qen የድል ቀን one of the most popular facebook pages of the facebook community both at home and in the Diaspora. The debates in the facebook group are not only robust, which collates reports from citizen reporters from all over Ethiopia especially when the day of rage was fast approaching , and it is often the interim medium for many of the revolutionary people. For instance, one of the most shared stories on this group was the alleged participation of Meles Zenawi in a phone in session of VOA’s Straight Talk Africa as Abebe to a ask questions to Ambassador of Eretria about the disputed border town of Bademe . You can listen to the alleged full three minutes participation of Meles Zenawi as Abebe here, as the session is VOA’s Straight Talk Africa and hosted by well-known Ugandan journalist Shaka Ssali.

Some stories and reports regarding maladministration and lack of good governance in Ethiopia were first published on anonymous individuals’ facebook page for months before the formation and flowering of independent facebook groups were formed for a revolutionary cause. Other prominent facebook pages such as Eyouthm Abiyot also first published their stories on the Yedil Qen የድል ቀን facebook group before getting their own facebook page latter their own independent site. Many of the ardent opponents of the current regime still share their news stories on the Yedil Qen የድል ቀን facebook page and try to inspire the online community for the revolution.

Though starting such digital activism is on facebook is excellent to bring about changes in Ethiopia, these expansion and involvement of arguments on the possibility of “Beka” Revolution seem contradictory, even counter-intuitive. The flowering of facebook groups and Ethiopian digital activism on the Internet should have functioned to satisfy the yearning for “Beka” Revolution by mainly diaspora Ethiopians and therefore sparkle the so much debated revolution. Nevertheless, revolutionary facebook groups not only fail to instigate Egyptian style revolution in Ethiopia but vigorously chip away the credibility of similar facebook groups and digital activists. Therefore online debates and arguments should be transformed to offline rational debates so that Ethiopians can use technology to bring about real changes.

Ingratiation (አለቅላቂነት): What stands between Ethiopian “Artists” and Greatness

Last Monday’s the self proclaimed Ethiopian “artists” discussion with the prime minster serves to highlight a critical flaw of Ethiopian art and entertainment business. This event makes me to strongly believe that this critical flaw is deep in to every “artists” personality and this flaw is ingratiation (አለቅላቂነት). Let me try to shade light on what ingratiation is all about prior to pouring scorn on the acts of the so called our “artists”. According to the social psychologist Edward E. Jones “ingratiation” is a social psychological technique in which an individual attempts to become more attractive or likeable to their target. Hence this result can be accomplished through several methods such as other-enhancement, opinion conformity, and self presentation/self-promotion. Other enhancement is a method in which the ingratiator compliments the target individual. Opinion conformity occurs when the ingratiator adopts and validates the attitudes and beliefs of the target individual. Self-presentation/self-promotion is a technique in which the ingratiator emphasizes their own attributes in order to be seen positively in the eyes of the target individual.

The artists begun the event with their great sycophantic drama which intends to demonstrate their suffer as a consequence of short of of consideration from government. But in the drama I have seen all the social psychological techniques like other-enhancement, opinion conformity and self presentation/self-promotion.
Beside this, the message which they have tried to transmit through their drama stands the risk of being misinterpreted, as it openly denies that a progressive attitude has been upheld by the general public of Ethiopia to improve the deteriorating conditions of the every actor (singers, dramatists, musicians) of the entertainment industry in Ethiopia. As far as I know Ethiopians have never failed to help so called “artists”. financial problems whenever their need comes. And they also have never failed to appeal to our pity when they are sick or come across with a certain disaster by calling to the public. Remember the most famous phrase used to appeal to our pity. (የኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ ያውቃል)
Nowadays Ethiopian music is started to be recognized by the public for its entertaining capacities though it has to endure a fair criticism for its lack of creativity and originality. The diversities in Ethiopian music are there for everyone to hear, with artists singing various sorts of songs and amassing significantly awesome amount of money for sometimes banal and as dry as bone songs and yet they are complaining for being severely underpaid. This is not what makes me annoyed what fumed me is their method to gain advantage they were all sycophantic in their questions. I have never heard of an artist asking about music censorship in Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency. It is a public secret that there are tracks that are never in the playlist of Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency. But, then why do so many of our biggest “artists” jump at the first opportunity to ask about piracy.
Regarding the film business in Ethiopia I have felt that the fact that we don’t have at least semi-standard film business helps many of our film makers rather than hurts. Since many of us don’t look towards movies of high standard our people are exposed to these people’s cheap films, they don’t need to produce state of the art movies to please the public.
Theatre in Ethiopia might not have sufficiently suffered from censorship as of journalism and music but we have been hearing rumors about certain theaters that are censored even some times banned to be staged. But no one was dare enough to ask about it. Weather it is a commercial theatre, street theatre or improvisational theatre, there is a strong recreational value attached to it, which probably leads a society to certain kind of spiritual or moral development. Why does the “artist” want to state and re -state this simple fact whit out asking censorship?
What even distresses me is that that many of Ethiopian “artistes” strongly believe that they shape the “Ethiopian image” and our economy; democracy; good governance and other serious issues plays no role in shaping a new “Ethiopian image”. False impressions such as these can be easily discounted. For instance, As Himanot Alemu claimed on the day Barrack Obama’s election motto “Yes we can” is not taken from Haile Gebreselassie but the concept of “Yes we can” has been there for centuries as a chief element of an American Dream.
Actually the “artists” behavior can be described in two simple terms: Sycophancy and Servility. I make my point!