One of the biggest topics of discussion all over the world these days is fake news. A type of propaganda which is characterized by the spread of deliberate misinformationor entirely fabricated stories fake news aims at misleading information consumes with the intent to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or bogus headlines that grab attention. Italsoundermines serious media coverage and makes it more difficult for journalists to cover significant news stories.Fake news disseminated by the social media in particular is capable of inciting bloody conflicts and erode social cohesion as its publishers are not constrained by the limitations of establishment news organizations. The dangers it poses are increasingly unfolding across Ethiopia. Unless it’s nipped in the bud the consequences will be dire for the country.
We firmly believe that as an inalienable right freedom of expression should never be compromised. But it should neither be construed nor exercised in such a way as to encroach on the enjoyment of other comparable rights or the shared values of society. Exchanging information in an irresponsible manner is an abnegation of the fundamental principles of democracy. While countering an idea with another idea is a facet of democracy that is in the interest of the public at large, nowadays we are witnessing the propagation of fake news not only sows confusion and doubt about the truth, but also robs citizens of the ability to make informed decisions.
Fake news is liable to spark violence easily when its subject disparages race, religion, culture, language and other traits by which people identify themselves. Though the dangers it poses may not be immediately apparent, it isa ticking time bomb.Failure to deal promptly with itis bound to have grim consequences which exact a heavy price and which history shall judge harshly. The age-old civility associated with the way in which Ethiopiansexchange ideas is slowly disappearing and being replaced by mannerisms disrespectful of ethnic, religious, cultural and ideological differences. It’s both a disgrace and a disappointment to see compatriots who violate the right to freedom of thought by intimidating citizens desirous to share their knowledge and experience take control of social media to spew vitriolic rhetoric. They should be compelled to cease and desist from their destructive acts.
Theproud people of Ethiopia, who have displayed gallantry andfierce patriotism throughout their history,are held up as examples of solidarity and harmonious co-existence despite enduring unimaginable sufferings for centuries.Fanning fake news for the express purpose of rending apart a people who have built a country that is home to Africans with their sweat and blood constitute abominable acts that are detrimental to the national interest. Needless to say Ethiopians cannot be fooled by fake news all the time. One way or another they will find out who is peddlingsuch news and their wrath for them will have no bounds.
The current crop of young generation and future generations need and indeed deserve to be bequeathed a healthy political milieu. They certainly have no use for propaganda-driven fake news spawned by the hate-ridden political landscape of the country. The intolerant mindset of the political elites of the 1960s, which was not open to civilized dialogue or compromise, has wreaked untold damage on Ethiopia and continues to entrench a zero-sum politics that does not brook freedom of thought and serves as a breeding ground fake news. The interminable feuding between the political forces of the countries should not be allowed to drag the populace down with it. Meanwhile families and other stakeholders need to exert the utmost effort so as to ensure that the masses do not fall victims to fake news. After all it is up to each and every citizen to safeguard the well-being of compatriots. Anyone who shirks this solemn duty and engages in untoward activities is not only reckless, but also an enemy of the people.
As we always say the absence of transparency leads to the rise of challenges endangering a country. If the government does not consistently conduct its affairs transparently it will pave the way for the proliferation of fake news from within and outside, particularly at a time it is engaging in a fire fight in response to events putting the very survival of the nation and itself in jeopardy. But when transparency and accountability prevail the public will not be misled by fake news as it would have easy access to the correction information. An informed public cannot be deceived by anyone one however hard they may try. As a result ideas that flow freely will be judged by the public on their merits alone. A people starved of information are like a rudderless ship. And where fake news, alternative facts and post-truth are the new normal it will be next to impossible for a country like Ethiopia to guarantee its continued existence let alone extricate itself from poverty, build democracy and assure peace and stability. It is incumbent up on all who feel they have a stake in the fate of Ethiopia to do whatever is in their power to see to it that such a specter does not come to pass in any part of the country. It’s only when the public is able to have an unfettered access to information that it can act with confidence and free from undue influence. The bond between the people of must not be undermined by fake news!