A video allegedly showing an Ethiopian mother beating her own daughter began to circulate on March 28, 2012, online and it storms controversy amongst the Ethiopian online community.
The event did explode on Ethiopian mainstream media as the Reporter translated it into headline news and an alleged pro-EPRDF local radio talk show hosts Seifu Fantahun and Temesgen Afework picked the story while the noise is still loud and clear on facebook and blogs.
Though Ethiopians are a bit behind in catching up with citizens journalism, but as cell phone penetration grows by the million( by the way just last night ETV claimed that we reached 17 million cell phone users and 600 thousand internet users), social media specifically facebook users has started to make their presence felt. The alleged child “abuse” video could be one example. Let me save about citizen journalism’s increase statistics in Ethiopia and its impact for another post. Now let me focus on the video in question and how it could be taken as a case in point in illustrating the waste of social media.
There is no question about the seriousness of the acts of the woman who thumped repetitively on the face of the muted little girl and most of the response to a child “abuse” video I would say is appropriate. I would describe the heated responses as righteous anger. Righteous anger is the kind of momentary anger but a compelling rage and it is an experience which one suffers following a swift read-through of social media feeds like the one in the question. Righteous anger leads too much sharing, liking, tagging, tweeting and reposting, and insignificant -nevertheless creditable amount of activism. Like the ones stop child abuse in Ethiopia, stop abusing Ethiopian woman in Arab Countries etc.
Of course a short wave of online activism has its own virtues and each of all online acts against an injustice like this one has its place in a greater online discussion. But I strongly sense that the likes of Seifu picked up this particular story because they have seen the mass righteous anger on social media sphere as an opportunity to spread out their influence further. Here I just want to ask where these noisy guys have been when the story of Yenesew Gebre was smearing the Ethiopian social media sphere. Why on earth someone fails to pick the story from facebook? As hypocritical as things getting a certain individual even went on to appear on one local radio to award a 10,000 Ethiopian Birr (about US$600) for someone who direct police to the arrest of the woman who “abused” the little girl. The person who captured the video popped up and grabbed her 10,000 Ethiopian Birr prize and told the radio that she captured the video three years ago. Currently, the Federal Police Commission justice is looking into this case.
For those who blow the story of a poor typical Ethiopian mom and the little child out of all proportion, even though it is just on paper Art. 29 of the constitution in addition, to guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression, guarantee the right to receive information on matters concerning public interest. However, there are also articles that have concerns over balancing the right to information with the protection of minors and right to privacy.
For those who claim that they are too neutrals too pick up the story of Yenesew Gebre from facebook I would like to remind them if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. — Desmound Tutu