The Ethiopian Media Council and Wabi Private Press Publishers Association has recognized the late Kifle Wedajo, ardent advocate of the abolition of censorship in Ethiopia, posthumously, together with Amare Aregawi, founder, former editor-in-chief and current general manager of Media and Communications Center, publisher of The Reporter (English) and Reporter (Amharic) newspapers for their outstanding contribution for the enhancement and strengthen of the media sector in Ethiopia.
The recognition ceremony was held at Hilton Addis on Thursday in the presence of President of Ethiopia, Mulatu Teshome (PhD).
Seasoned journalists and editors attended the recognition ceremony. Members of the business community, veteran politicians and other invited guests were also in the attendance.
Among the known personalities, Maeregu Bazebeh, a renowned journalist and former editor-in-chief of the state-daily Addis Zemen, veteran insurer Eyseuswerk Zafu, renowned politician Bulcha Demeksa, veteran figure of the armed struggle and founding member of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front/Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (TPLF/EPRDF) Sebhat Nega, recognized media commentator and lecturer Costantinos Berhe (PhD) were in attendance.
During the ceremony, many of the attendants unanimously agreed that the recognition that has been bestowed upon the individuals is both quite deserving and long overdue.
In her opening remark, deputy chairwoman of the Ethiopian Media Council, Meaza Biru, founder and co-owner of Sheger Radio, said that the gathering commemorates the 25th year of the proclamation that nullified censorship in Ethiopia and recognizes champions of the media in the country.
In this regard, Meaza stated that Kifle Wedajo, one of the architects of both the transitional charter and the constitution is recognized posthumously for his enormous contribution for the incorporation of articles associated with freedom of speech, abolishment of censorship and other basic human rights related articles both in the transitional charter and the constitution supporting the reemergence of the media in Ethiopia.
Kifle was a prominent individual engaged in different activities and serving the nation at different capacities. Meaza quoted Andrias Eshete (Prof.), another household name and a scholar in Ethiopia, as saying: “Kifle was the translator of our identity for foreigners and foreign governments; similarly to his own people and government Kifle was a mindful and fair personality.” “We really miss him,” Meaza said.
Concerning Amare Aregawi, Meaza stated: “Amare played a pivotal role in the establishment and leadership of the Ethiopian Media Council contributing to the strength of the media.” Apart from that, she listed his achievements while he was head of the public broadcaster, the then Ethiopian Television (ETV) and for starting entertaining TV programs like 120 in the early 1990s.
According to Meaza, Bale Guday, a highly acclaimed television drama of its time, and 120, a Sunday entertainment program, are both examples of his contribution in the public media apart from establishment of The Reporter, a bilingual newspaper published three times a week.
Zerihun Teshome of Zami Radio on his part revisited some of the predicaments of press freedom in Ethiopia in connection to censorship. He sketched the experience of the media through the successive regimes and raised some incidents to demonstrate his argument. In this regard, he said that in the past, it was not only newspapers and magazines which had to go through censorship; it was rather any kind of artwork and even physical appearances were subject to censorship.
Tamrat Gebregiorgis, managing editor of a weekly newspaper, Fortune, on his part, described the late Kifle Wedajo as the “unsung hero” especially for his contribution in the incorporation of articles associated with freedom speech, nullifying censorship and human rights issues in the transitional charter and in the constitution.
Similarly, Tamrat appreciated the persistence of Amare and acknowledged his contribution in the Ethiopian media landscape. He said that he was delighted to see the recognition of the two individuals in the presence of the President of Republic but said that the recognition is too late.
“I feel the recognition is a late one, because when I think of the media in Ethiopia without Reporter the gap would be quite huge,” Tamrat said.
President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) also said: “The two personalities that are recognized in the program today have played a very significant role in the media sector and deserve the recognition.”
The president also warned that the polarization in Ethiopian media would not help the democratization process of the country. “Although the basic principles of the constitution and other media related proclamations are to facilitate the contribution of the media for the development and prosperity of the country, many of the media outlets prefer to stand in two opposing poles,” President Mulatu said.
“On the one hand, there is prejudice and hatred to government while on the other side there is a blindfold support. However, both sides would not help the democratization process of the country and hence if we want to see prosperous and developed and democratic Ethiopia, we have to work on building a responsible media,” President Mulatu said while concluding his remark.
Kifle was a prominent member of the transitional council, which produced the charter that abolished censorship; he worked relentlessly with conviction to defend the media to freely exercise its rights. He was a champion of freedom of speech and human rights.
Amare as well had a front row seat as one of the early Ethiopians to start a private media after the EPRDF came to power. He was also appreciated for his approach and vision in changing the stagnant public media while he was leading the then Ethiopian Television. Currently, founder and head of Media and Communication Center, his contribution in the private media is well noted and significant.
By Neamin Ashenafi