Ethiopia: Washed out by the wind of change

September 13, 2018 Africa , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Alem Hailu G/Kristos



ADDIS ABABA— Like a horse doomed to drag a cart wearing blinders, suppose you had been a journalist deprived of the right to pen the reality on the ground. You were coerced to disgustingly flatter the government and overlook its wrong turns or corrupt practices allowing the go ahead to harmful trends in the country. This way you were made a toy to be manipulated by the disfavored government in power. As such, smothered by unwritten censorship, you were subject to a conscious pang.


Your complaint downplayed by yes men that dominated the editorial committee highly populated by appointees, you were seen as a maverick. Hopeful things would change one day, in an unhealthy atmosphere you were trying to do your best to be fair in your reportage, at times suffering covert attacks from bosses.


What do you feel if you hear the good news that the wind of change that swept across the country in the wake of the political reform has washed out such media bosses?


In connection to the sacking of the manager and deputy manager of the Ethiopian Press Agency, The Ethiopian Herald Gazette had approached some of its staffers for their take on the matter. “Under the guise of image building we were deprived of the right to be honest to the truth and the audience. We were emasculated from forestalling rent seeking and ethnicity-charged politics the repercussion of which rocked the nation. ‘You must not drag into light minutest details to tarnish the country’s image you have to focus solely on issues on macro level. You have no room to write case stories that could amplify the corruption in the country,’ they have been dinning into our ears. As such our newspaper was shunned by the readers,” they said.


Ironically the same bosses may challenge you why the newspaper, they sent off the track touting the incumbent as smart, is not marketable.


“Instead of planning strategic directions that could transform the paper our bosses were focusing on divide and rule and endless meetings. They were trying to deflect attention from the political tension in the country and to deflate daily-mounting complaints in the Agency. Making their own network, they were promoting yes men and demoting those who voice complaints in general meetings or meetings the EPA’s Board members preside over. The meetings were not only far from value adding but also time consuming or unprofessional wrangling that opened wide rooms for mood swinging. Due to this challenge, quality was on the decline. Blind to media management, they were trying to control journalists as factory workers. As it sounds a mockery, journalists were saddled with numerous tasks that compromise quality.”


Pursuant of advice taken on the matter, when you ask experts in Media and Communication the responses you get turn out to be in consonance with your line of reasoning.


Abera Wendewossen is a journalist-turned instructor. Approached by this journalist he said “Media cannot be managed with the philosophy of industrial management. It should be guided by the soft and humanistic management techniques. Managing a mind is not the same as managing labor. You may force a laborer to lift a weight but you cannot force a journalist to write what is expected from him. Boosting satisfaction and creating an enabling environment must be the central tenet of media management. Number doesn’t matter but quality. It is quality that affords a newspaper win acceptance. A news analysis or article produced in haste could not influence readers. Unless journalists enjoy a good working environment and unless they are satisfied they could not come up with mind-shaping products.”


Working on holidays, even in lunch breaks and weekends, sometimes late at night, without an overtime payment as well as finishing tasks past midnight as a labor of love, you may be forced to strictly observe the normal working hours by media bosses remiss from pondering on strategic planning.


Contrariwise to adult psychology they were posting ratings like lower performers oblivious to the fact that they were the lowest performer in transforming the Agency to a Corporate level – a task they were tardy in seeing to for far too long.


“Standing on one’s own legs, not leaning on government’s support, getting advertisements and proving the newspaper a most sought-after paper must be the strategic goal,” Abera concluded.


You may be baffled how to liberate yourself from self-censorship due to the hangover influence. But you have to soon acclimatize, especially when you hear another boss entrusted with the task of maintaining a small zoo and who was misappropriating funds till the lions wane due to starvation of neglect, is sacked too. Take heart that the rippling effect of change is reaching out to all, slowly but surely.





Alem Hailu G/Kristos

A published poet, novelist, editor, translator of masterpieces, literary critic, playwright and journalist from Ethiopia. M.A holder in literature, Addis Ababa University.

Looking for a traditional publisher of a collection of poems. My novel: ‘Hope from the debris of hopelessness’.

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