Days after what appeared like an ethnic clash unfolded in Buno Bedelle zone in South West Ethiopia, federal and regional government officials are blaming local based media for “aggravating conflict and inciting violence” between Amara and Oromo.
The conflict in the above-mentioned region of Ethiopia caused the death of eleven Ethiopians, according to government and independent media sources, from Oromo and Amara language speaking groups.
Ethiopia News Network (ENN) and Zami FM 90.7 are the media that authorities are blaming for inciting violence between Amara and Oromo people whom the authorities describe as people with a history of intermingled and cherished living for together for generations.
Both media outlets are known to the public as having affiliations with Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a dominant power in the ruling coalition whose authority is being challenged than ever before.
Ethiopia News Network (ENN) was apparently airing European soccer match when it accidentally interrupts its transmission with “breaking news coverage” in which it reported about conflict in Chora and Daga ( Buno Bedele Zone) between Amara and Oromo – and some government officials believe that the news was covered in a way to incite one group over the other.
Dr Negerei Lencho, federal government communications minister, is of the view that under no circumstances press freedom and freedom of expression should be used in a way to cause violence among Ethiopian people. “It is unacceptable”, he sternly warns. “I have followed the coverage myself. We never had a media that covers news in a way done by the media [a reference to ENN]. It is not our culture,” says Dr. Negeri Lencho in a video clip released by state media, Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (video below -apologies for not providing sub title)
Dr Negeri seems to question their practice from the professional ethics point of view. He says, they never contacted relevant authorities to find out the cause and learn what is being done. He also used the word “irresponsible” to describe the news coverage by the above-mentioned media outlets.
However, from what many Ethiopians seem to think the way the conflict in Buno Bedele, Illubabor, is covered by ENN and Zami- FM is not just a matter of malpractice. Rather, ENN these media seem to have a political motivation, perhaps somewhat in line with the interest of TPLF, as some say, in covering the news the way they did. ENN is new media network that is apparently funded by TPLF.
For many informed Ethiopians, Zami FM 90.7 exhibits the practices of Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC) and it is tolerated because the radio station has connection with power (TPLF). When Mimi Sebhatu, who used to be VOA staff before she moved to Ethiopia after TPLF took over power in Ethiopia, is told about that communication bureau head of Oromo region is vowing to take the matter to court, there was scorn tone in her voice.
Addisu Arega, communication head of Oromo regional government, didn’t dare to relate Zami FM 90.7 to TPLF but he did not shy away from relating the media has having possible connections with what he called “rent seekers” who expropriated land from the region through a corrupt means. He too blamed Zami 90.7 and ENN for misrepresenting the conflict in a way to cause dangerous ethnic violence.
As it turns out,based on reports from different media source, the conflict that caused the death of eleven people is instigated by TPLF agents in the area but many do claim, rightly so, that TPLF exploited hate that has been propagated against Amara people for more than two decades. The argument runs the line that TPLF agents would not have caused the violence had there not been fertile ground for it in the region. It is for that reason that analysts suggest that part of task for the OPDO leadership, which seem to have a progressive tone , is to address the ideological base of hate which is partly informed by narratives on history prepared to serve radical ethno nationalism.
In a related development, a speech by Dr Abiy Abebe, who is the vice president of Oromo regional government, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of South People’s Democratic Organization is misrepresented by EPRDF media – apparently deliberately. The motive was , some say, to make appear OPDO leadership – which seem to be transformed as far as challenging the unregulated power of the ruling Tigray people’s Liberaiton Front party is concerned -but it was prematurely foiled.
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