The Ethiopian Defense Force announced on Tuesday that it has awarded some journalists and activists for “standing on its side” during an event organized as “thanksgiving and appreciation day.” The event was organized on the occasion of the 116th anniversary of the Ethiopian Defense Force Day.
Sisay Agena, a prominent journalist known for his principled contributions to a free press and his work with ESAT media, is one of the seven awardees. He received a medal award that comes with an Honorary membership of the Ethiopian Defense Force.
Sisay resigned a few months ago from Ethiopian Media Service (EMS), which was broadcasting from the United States, where he was serving as a news analyst.
The award he received from the defense force has raised eyebrows not only among his former colleagues but also among Ethiopians who used to support his work as a journalist.
The Ethiopian Defense Force used to enjoy massive support from Ethiopians, especially after thousands of its members were massacred when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which was running the Tigray region, launched what it called a “Pre-emptive strike,” attacking several posts of the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Defense Force.
Evidently, the Ethiopian Defense Force, in recent times, not only lost significant support from Ethiopians but also has been widely criticized for political partisanship, which manifested itself in the form of supporting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and demonizing the opposition quarter. The Defense Force denies that it was giving political support to Abiy Ahmed’s regime. Colonel Getnet Adane, spokesperson, recently said it is the duty of the Defense Force to get orders from the elected government. But the relationship rather appears to transcend that and has turned out to be, apparently, not the case of an arm’s length one.
Abiy Ahmed’s government’s extensive military operation in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, where recurring drone strikes claim civilian lives under the guise of an invitation to intervene to maintain “law and order” in the region, has exacerbated criticism against the Defense Force to the point that it is now seen as the guardian of the “Oromummaa” political ideology. The purpose of the operation is described as disarming extremist forces who are operating under the cover of Fano. The military operation came just a week or so after the Defense Chief said the Defense Force has no business to fight against Fano.
In what appears to be a response to growing public resentment, the Defense Force has recently announced that it has formed a media center with the aim to “attack, not just defend” in what it called the Propaganda war. It is unclear if the award to a few selected journalists and activists is meant to be a strategy to achieve that goal. The Defense Force is celebrating its 116th-anniversary on Thursday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Journalist Sisay Agena’s former colleagues have reflected on his award from the Defense Force. Watch the embedded video below.
Video : embedded from EVN Ethiopia YouTube channel
Cover photo : screenshot from the video
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