Al Jazeera’s English service has been my favourite TV channel ever since its inception. I found it more objective and more sympathetic to the oppressed and marginalized than the mainstream global media such as the CNN and BBC. As a media person, I enjoyed its unique programme The Listening Post, a penetrating critique of the media as well as governments that are enemies of the media. After watching all critique against the weaknesses of the media in The Listening Post for years, I now start to blame Al Jazeera itself for the same reason; a deliberate distortion of the reality when it comes to reporting about the various problems in Ethiopia.
It started last July when riots broke out following the assassination a famous Oromifa singer, Hachalu Hundessa. Oromo youth burned down factories, schools and other buildings, set fire on vehicles, destroyed properties belonging to members of the Amahara ethnic group; not to speak of the genocide they unleashed against Amharas. This happened in the towns nearby the capital Addis. In Addis itself, the mobs also burned down buildings and cars and were about to commit another round of genocide when the security forces acted forcefully for the first time. Security forces quickly put down the riots. The government accused some forces including the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and some Oromo extremists such as Jawar Mohammed were reprimanded right away. TPLF, Oromo extremists and their foreign supporters entered an unholy alliance in praising the ‘uprising’ (read genocide) and condemning the government. Surprisingly, Al Jazeera joined this same bandwagon and started its campaign against the Ethiopian government. Al Jazeera entirely depended for information on the opposition TV, OMN, and TPLF TV to accuse the government for the violence. It uncritically aired interview with the spokesperson of Amnesty International’s Ethiopia section. In all these episodes, I haven’t seen any person from the government or independent scholars being interviewed by Al Jazeera.
Then came the war in Tigray. Again, Al Jazeera repeated the same ‘mistake’ by blaming the Ethiopian government for starting the war. Even the TPLF would not deny that they started the war. This time, it seems as if Al Jazeera started a campaign of heresy. It devoted a number of episodes from its “Inside Story” programme and invited mostly people who are tied to TPLF and Oromo extremists for ‘comments’. A certain Awol Allo from the University of Keel known for his parochial views was invited to give his ‘expert opinion’ on the war in Tigray. Then, British journalists such as Martin Plaut with skin-deep knowledge about Ethiopia were also invited at Inside Story to give ‘expert opinion’ and warn the world that “Ethiopia is disintegrating” and that “Ethiopia is close to a civil war!!” That was exactly what the TPLF leadership, already overthrown, was saying to attract international attention and perhaps bring the matter to the UN Security Council with the help of Egypt and Trump.
On hindsight, the war in Tigray was perhaps planned to create an internationalized conflict in the first place. Egypt is the most interested party in this campaign. Egypt used its Trojan horse in Sudan, the army, to internationalize the conflict. The Sudanese army invaded an area in Gondar, which has been a subject of negotiation for many years. They had expected a backlash by the Ethiopian army thereby internationalizing the conflict. The Ethiopian government preferred not to make Egypt happy and refrained from a military retaliation. In all this, Al Jazeera continued its negative reporting regarding Ethiopia.
It seems that Al Jazeera is looking for the slightest excuse to resort to negative reporting regarding Ethiopia. For instance, during the flooding of Sudan last August, its minister of water resources went public in praising the Ethiopian dam under construction for containing millions of cubic meters of water in its reservoir which otherwise would have added misery to the already dire situation of Sudanese flood. At that point, Al Jazeera’s reporter in Sudan amazingly reported the opposite: that the Ethiopian dam was to blame for the flooding. This is a deliberate distortion and twisting of facts.
I then threw Al Jazeera’s ‘objectivity’ out of the window. No, Al Jazeera has become consistently negative when reporting about Ethiopia. No doubt it is political and connected with the foreign policy of the Quatari regime. Looking at the people who it interviews in its Inside Story programme compels me to conclude that it is no longer “Inside Story”, but “Outside Story”.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in the article do not necessary reflect the views of The Reporter
Contributed by Mesfin Habtu