Multipolarity emerges as new media feature
Despite the fact that the majority of reporting by the media in Ethiopia is about politics, the development of multipolar coverage is identified as one of the new features of the country’s media.
This was disclosed at a seminar organized by the Office of the Prime Minister at Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa, under the title ‘Addis Wog’ (new discourse).
Presenting his research findings of the media trends in the country, Mulatu Alemayehu (PhD), a professor at Addis Ababa University’s Journalism School, said that in addition to the previous two-sided polarities in the country, namely state-affiliated and unaffiliated, two more polarities of extremities have come into play. These are ethnic federalists and unionists, he said.
Because of the number of both online and offline media outlets, the public’s political awareness has been advanced, but the scope of this awareness is of limited scope like limited plurality views, high interests in conflicts and instability, and growing negative tendencies.
“Now the general elections are coming and the concern is the prevalence of fake news and hate speech which are expected to happen,” Mulatu said.
Mulatu recommended professional discussions to be held at all levels and an increase in stakeholder engagement and participation.
In addition, Mulatu’s research finding reveals that that the majority of coverage in the media is about politics while economic and social issues, as well as conflict and instability, have lesser priorities.
“Most of the private media’s mainly report politics as this is thought to attract a larger audience and generate better income. But as the state media follows the government’s directions, they don’t usually cover politics,” Mulatu said.
In addition to this, there is a huge expansion in hate speech and such attacks are being directed on religions and ethnicities, more than any time, Mulatu said reminding that such coverage’s are of no help to the readers.
Speaking at the seminar, Wondwosen Andualem, the deputy head of the Ethiopian Broadcast Authority (EBA) said that since the change of leadership in the country, there have been efforts to change the previous relation of a cat and mouse between the Authority and the media.
“EBA has developed a thought, that capacity building both for the Authority and the media are vital. We are striving to work by the stipulated legal framework. Currently, the Authority has started to do scientific trend analysis of the media in the country, and it is giving feedback to the media houses,” Wondwossen said adding that they are building trust with the media.
For the future, he promised that his institution will provide the necessary support for the recently recognized Media Council and the Editors’ Guild of Ethiopia. He also disclosed that much has been done to establish a media training hub in Ethiopia.
“The media have to work towards enhancing public media literacy and serious attention has to be given to the information closure at some government institutions,” Mulatu said also pointing out that the priority in media development should be self-regulation.
“One of the institutions that could serve as a self-regulating platform in the country is the Media Council,” Amare Aregawi, the panelist during the seminar and Chair of the Council indicated.
“Freedom of the press carries the concept of not only the freedom of the press but the freedom of the people to get information,” Amare argued. “And while enjoying their freedom, the media have to abide by some standard ethical procedures that can serve in providing better information to the public.”
For this purpose, the Media Council has a tribunal at which complaints can be filed and looked into for a resolution, he added.
“Complaints in other countries, even leaders in Africa, are directed towards the media councils rather than courts. Hence, as hate speech and fake news are expected in the upcoming election, such establishments are of pertinent importance,” he concluded.