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UNESCO, professionals discuss potential media sector alliance

With an aim to “ensuring Ethiopia has a vibrant media sector capable of supporting the development and peace building agendas of the country,” the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Ethiopia Liaison office, is discussing with various media stakeholders in order to establish media sector coordination platform.

The platform dubbed the Ethiopian Media Sector Alliance (EMSA) is said to “facilitate effective and coordinated media development initiatives in the country.”

The first meeting to form the Alliance was held at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on Tuesday, November 19, 2019. It brought together various stakeholders including Chairperson of the Ethiopian Media Council, Amare Aregawi, the UNESCO Ethiopia Regional Adviser on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, Lydia Gachungi, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA) Director General, Getachew Dinku (PhD), Arts TV CEO Azeb Worku, editors and representatives from the Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and the African Union (AU).

Gachungi expressed that the Alliance will not be a registered entity with a legal personality, but a platform for media stakeholders to discuss their issues, and facilitate effective and coordinated media development initiatives and the peace building agenda in the country.

“We can come together, to put together a standardized training material. Most curricula are not in the countries context and we do not have organizations giving certificates. We need in-service training and we support a standardized curriculum especially in areas of election reporting,” she said.

While announcing the formal establishment of the Ethiopian Media Council after its registration a month ago, Amare said: “The Council can do nothing alone and we have to create alliance across the continent. We need trainings and others.”

He also said that strengthening the Council will help enable peer reviews and claims of journalistic malpractices will be brought to the Council to get resolved, as is done in other countries.

“But, the decision to join into the Alliance should be left to the respective institutions that the attendees of the meeting are coming from,” Amare said, reminding that all have to take the idea back to their respective institutions and decide on it.

Getachew on his behalf said that the partnership initiative did not clearly mention the governmental and non-governmental organizations’ engagements, which are crucial for any successful intervention in the area.

“The government is committed for press freedom and there are measures to improve it.  But given the space, we are not witnessing the kind of professionalism that we expect and there are situations that require interventions. The reason we are here is that we need to align to these initiatives. If we could streamline these initiatives, we could get better results,” he said also congratulating UNESCO for making this happen.

The concept note prepared for the proposed Alliance criticizes that: “Most of the media support in Ethiopia and professional organizations are working in silos and this is minimizing their impact and effectiveness resulting in a lot of duplication of efforts, overlapping mandates and use of huge finances that are not translated into the expected vibrant media sector. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop a coordinated response mechanism that will ensure various media actors which would contribute to the priorities aligned to the ongoing media reforms.”

The Alliance takes institutions as members, not individuals, it was announced.