It is observable that the traditional role of media is transformed. Erstwhile, as some scholars like Habermass noted, media played a big role not only in terms of informing citizens thereby serving as checks and balance but also in terms of shaping public opinion. Now, it seems the case that media has got a new role in the form of political activism in the international arena.
Just like it has become, almost, a norm for courts to engage in judicial activism, media activism should not be viewed as something unethical to the profession. However, this role of the media should come with a responsibility. Especially, trans-border media activism, if there is such a thing, should be given ethical and normative guidelines as to how it should be conducted in a way to respect the rights of nations too. Boundary between international arena and national arena, political issue and human rights issue should be clearly delineated. It has to operate in way that gives room for observing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations. If there are legal instruments in this regard, they should be given impetus to function as effective deterrent in the event of breach of principle related to respecting rights of states. If there is no convention yet, there is obviously a need to have one.
Yesterday, Aljazeera streaming organized discussion under the theme “Why is the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia also one of the most persecuted?” As well, questions were posted on Aljazeera streaming twitter page which sound as if Aljazeera‘s target is to incite ethnic tensions among Ethiopians, a matter which should be taken seriously. Some of the questions read: “Are you #Oromo? Do you identify as #Ethiopian? Why or why not?” “Do #Oromo people have enough political rights in #Ethiopia?” “Who is at fault when it comes to the marginalisation of the #Oromo people? #Ethiopia.” Besides, a portion of content presented by one the invited analyst who was present in the studio was totally incorrect and disseminating wrong information in a media outlet like that of Aljazeera which has a global reach could have a serious negative repercussion.
It does not mean that the forum Aljazeera provided or the agenda Aljazeera tried to push, whether it is understood as media activism or otherwise, will cause a political earthquake or something like that. But misinforming the public is a serious breach of media ethics. Virtually, Aljazeera was playing against the sovereignty of Ethiopia and that is a very serious matter which should never be tolerated. The way and the tone questions are framed are purely political. Many seem to speculate that the way Aljazeera behaved is due to Nile Dam effect. It may or may not be the case. It is in the interest of Aljazeera to explain the matter and apologize for it in a timely manner.
Otherwise, it is obvious that there were serious human rights violations in Ethiopia and there is still human rights violations in different parts of the country. Ethiopians irrespective of ethnic background are experiencing similar situations. In fact, there were repeated forced evictions of citizens in recent months which Aljazeera did not bother to report about, to the best knowledge of the editor. Quite a considerable cases of Human rights violations in the last twenty century are recorded and are available in the hands of reputable international human rights organizations. Aljazeera might benefit from consulting these records before trying to project a wrong image as to the nature and extent of human rights violations.
Again,where did the inspiration to see the violation from ethnic politics perspective came from and what is the intended purpose? Why Aljazeera went overboard is something that needs serious explanation!