Forty-one days passed since Prime Minster Meles Zenawi was seen on public. In the days after his last appearance on Ethiopian State Television ETV, social media particularly Facebook and Twitter was used to give sensitive information about Meles Zenawi’s health, the hospital where he is being treated, the kind and the cause of his ailment, his being deceased are among other emerging topics related to Meles Zenawi. Had twitter have a feature for trending-topics of East Africa, I am sure Meles Zenawi would have reached the level of trending-topic; despite his name high on twitter Ethiopians do not yet know where Meles Zenawi is, what happened to him whether he is dead or alive.
Yesterday many had hoped Bereket Simon, a government spokesman would give a hint about the whereabouts of the head of the government but he refused to give any details about Prime Minister Meles’ whereabouts or the cause his ailment. This definitely would set other speculations in motion as people already start to say if Prime Minster Meles Zenawi is in a good condition and recuperating bring him on television. So who shall we follow for trustworthiness on PM Meles Zenawi government media? Exile Media or Diaspora Media depending on the tag you wish to bestow or the social media?
A deliberately deprived Ethiopian local news media have generated cascade of news on the whereabouts of PM Meles Zenawi that are becoming increasingly tough to be trusted or not to be trusted depending on the news you lean to trust. Before the dust settles on the whereabouts of Meles Zenawi’s I find it enthusing to reflect on the wider significance of the where is Meles Zenawi saga because as the particles do come down to rest, they will surly cover up some real and possibly endemic problems of Ethiopia journalism. I have found no better summary of the present limbo than this Mesfen Negash’e tweet.
Mesfin listed all major media that are involved in major twists of Meles Zenawi saga and tweeted
The fate of Meles Zenawi carries a heavy price for [Ethiopian] media asserting his status, credibility on balance
Yet again who shall we trust then and how
Well let’s start with theoretical foundations for a trustworthiness system Scholar & practitioner Patrick has quoted from Panagiotis Metaxas & Eni Mustafaraj research document and wrote:
Our concept of trustworthiness comes from the epistemology of knowledge. When we believe that some piece of information is trustworthy (e.g., true, or mostly true), we do so for intrinsic and/or extrinsic reasons. Intrinsic reasons are those that we acknowledge because they agree with our own prior experience or belief. Extrinsic reasons are those that we accept because we trust the conveyor of the information. If we have limited information about the conveyor of information, we look for a combination of independent sources that may support the information we receive (e.g., we employ “triangulation” of the information paths). In the design of our system we aim to automatize as much as possible the process of determining the reasons that support the information we receive. We define as trustworthy, information that is deemed reliable enough (i.e., with some probability) to justify action by the receiver in the future. In other words, trustworthiness is observable through actions.
It looks the Prime Minister will not come and disprove all the speculations about his whereabouts and his wellbeing anytime soon. If trustworthiness cannot be observable through actions according to the above theory of Extrinsic reasons you can look for a combination of independent sources that may support the information you receive (e.g., you employ “triangulation” of the information paths). Hence in my opinion it is sensible to hunt for rumors on Twitter and Facebook but make sure to pay attention to the following list of social media pages and mainstream media outlets.
There is a general belief that “Truthiness” has some natural buoyancy on social media particularly on twitter truth “floats to the top” hence I will start with twitter pages:
Tamrat G. Giorgis
Getachew T. Alemu
SM 4 New Ethiopia
On Facebook pay attention to the posts of Jawar Mohammed
To have a perspective on the matter you must give a due attention for the following mainstream media
Finally use your head!