Thursday, May 24, 2007

Arrest Exposes The Shady Dealings of The International Media

(By Meqdela and Ethio-Zagol)
When news that three New York Times reporters were caught in Deghabur while they were trying to cover rebel activity in the region sipped through last week, American diplomats in Addis Ababa immediately contacted Ethiopian government officials, including the Prime Minister to demand their release.

That triggered a chain of reactions from the government, the diplomats and the press which reveal a curious collusion between a rogue government and institutions which claim to be the agents of the public.

The Ethiopians were insistent that they would only release the captives if the press didn't report about it. The message was immediately passed to Nairobi where most of the media have their regional bureaus. "Government officials were, not surprisingly, talking about the fact that the journalists went to Deghabur without permission, and about the disrespect for the rule of law. They were confrontational, and we were in deep shit, " said one American diplomat.

In Nairobi, regional bureau chiefs of the major international media agreed to put the story under the carpet. The decision was communicated to reporters here in Addis. "It was a gag order basically," said a foreign journalist in Addis Ababa. In the mean time, the captives were being dragged from one jail to another.

Some media observers here express their surprise with the agreement. AP, AFP, Reuters and the BBC are very competitive with each other. And in the country where getting and verifying news is hard, the slightest opportunity to outpace the competitors in breaking the news is grabbed with both hands. In fact, the observers claimed, the whole saga reveals one operational philosophy of the international media here - being cosy with the government.

"With threats of expulsion, withdrawal of accreditation and shutting them out from information, the Ethiopian government makes sure that the foreign journalists in Addis Ababa and their editors in Nairobi get into self-censorship and the policy of appeasement, " cried one observer. "They try hard, sometimes too hard, to write good stories about Ethiopia and the Ethiopian government."

Even within the correspondents here, there are some who are concerned about the implication of self-censorship Vis-a-Vis the public's right to know and the journalistic duty to impart information, but usually keep quiet to avoid diversely affecting their careers. Instead, these young journalists hob-nob with government officials and apologists of human rights violations in the grand hotels of Addis Ababa, and write reports which are at the very least neutral to the government. Those who dare to break this culture of comfort lose out as their editors reject their stories. "It is Nairobi, stupid!" said one journalist referring to the heavy censorship by the editors.

In the Kenyan capital, editors are more worried as to whether their presence in Ethiopia will be jeopardized if they write bad stories about the government than the public's right to know and fairness to the victims of human rights abuses. "They are obsessed with presence. This has partly to do with their career, but partly with the lack of role-theory," said a foreign journalist here in Addis Ababa. And there is also an agreement among many of them that, however bad the government is, it is better than the unknown or untested alternatives, and other African governments; a political judgement that not only contravenes their supposed objectivity, but the facts on the ground. Far from the close scrutiny of journalistic watchdogs in their homelands, these editors also collude with the diplomats of their countries in Nairobi and Ethiopia. They push the official line of their capitals. The foreign correspondent speak for this unholy collusion is "Protective Alliance." "It is like get closer to me baby and I will get you out when you are in trouble," Explained one journalist. It is a security insurance.

It took the release of the journalists for the news to get out. Even then, most of the wire services reported it after The Times issued a statement about it. "To put a counter factual question, Would they have reported it if The Times kept quiet?" asked one observer. We will never know. But we know that the decision to report it wouldn't be informed by accountability, but rather, by the interests of the Ethiopian government, and its foreign protectors.


Anonymous said...

Who would blame any of the actors in your story? The repressive government want to stay on power and manipulate and stretch its options to its limit to maximize its utility.
The foreign press will do the minimum required and stay out of the bull’s eye of the repressive government that will target them only and only when they put the regime on the spot. The press, correspondents, editors, will do what ever it takes to stay in the position where they are, to keep the untold luxury they enjoy. People in the west think of Livingston and other European travellers when they hear about reporters and correspondents in Africa. Little they know that these groups of people amass untold fortune and live in luxury which they may not enjoy in their own country. Ethiopia, Kenya may be dirt poor but believe me for foreigners it is heaven on earth as it provides the best in life for the few upper echelons who can afford it. The upper echelon which includes any foreigner whether a correspondent or a reporter can afford to hire five people to serve him hand and foot for any of the daily chorus for almost nothing. Imagine having your own guard, a Gardner, a baby sitter, a house maid, a messenger, and a driver of your own. These people are paid a meagre salary to serve almost untold long hours.
So readers tell me who would not do any thing that is humanly possible to keep his/her interest.
It is I think the people who are being tumbled on who sit and watch all this happening to them, as if they are not the victim. One may ask what the poor people can do. oh well there is a lot they can do, they can boot the dictator out of their country as a starter and take the driver seat to decide their destiny. Short of that they will always be looking from outside when a dictator and other vultures take advantage of them and decide what is good for them that may which is keeping them in the hell hole they are in.

Anonymous said...

We Ethiopians are on the verge of losing all our hopes on the fairness of the World. If we haven't already. All are dictatorship appeasers from K street in Washington all the way to Addis Ababa.

Anonymous said...

I have a slightly different take on this. May be the reporters and or editors kept silent not because of collusion with the govt but because the lives of their colleagues are at stake here. I will only agree with this blogger if a detailed report of what happened including why they refrained from reporting the incident is not forthcoming by next month or so.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best posting ever by this blogger. Its wonderfully analytical regarding the new type of collusion between younger journalists of the west stationed in Africa, the diplomiatic community and the government. Very interesting.

Abba Gomol

Unknown said...

5 23 anon...Brother/Sister....there is no need to loose hope now, this is just another little step that discredit tplf regime, eventually it will amount to something....things progress slow, ferenj media does what s best for s ok! be expected....When was the last time they ever looked out for us...Not NEVER... So Dont place your faith in them....we have EZ and contributors...we have all types of communication channels. And it will only grow....What weyane dont understand is that their repression is only a fertile ground for us to get it strong!

Anonymous said...

The anon. #2 you have a good sense of what is taking place in politics of this day,when you said;
"All are dictatorship appeasers from K street Washington all the way to Addis Ababa".
Your point here is well received ;which prompts me to say the following.
The current paradigm in Washington is not between Democrat and Republican;or between right and left,rather, between the U.S public and the elite:made up of the Bilderberg group,and the Trilateral commission.We may say what ever we want to say ,the fact remains, the world is ruled by this small elite;regardless of which party is in the White. House. What surprise will it be for us now ,several times in the past, we have been told the peacfull protest will never get us any where.The elite controls every thing:the military ,industriay and the news media-hence it is ,rightly, said of it the military industrial complex. Can you ,my friends, honestly will say that the war in Iraqui has been lively coverd?I guss you can say; yes to some extent-we have seen some briefings by government embedded reporters,not independet reporters.

For any one who cares you may search the following sights:delve your-self in to this information volt;and you will be a changed person. 1- Prison Planet .com
2- Info.War .com

Anonymous said...


When President Issaias said,"what free press, there is no free press anywhere in the world." When I read this artcile by EZ that interview Issias had with the BBC rang a bell. He was telling the truth, but people were laughing at him for he was disconnected with reality and what not. Well, now we know that it is us who are disconnected form reality President Issaias was all along on the right track and whatever he was saying has turned out to be the truth. There is no free press. There used to be free press during the 1970, but even in the USA there is no free press, all the media practices self-censorship.

Anonymous said...

The last three postings , breaking the arrest news, their release and this analysis are simply superb. I think, you are able to penetrate through the fortified wall of Multi-national Media, and showed us whom they are working for and their “World class journalism”.

Anonymous said...

Why is then the news stories by reporters of same agencies based in Harare or Khartoum so critical of the governments of Zimbabwe and Sudan? Has someone asked those based in Addis or Nairobi, whatever excuse they are giving, should n't that applicable to other countries as well? When it comes to regimes considered friendly to the West, they hide behind this "fear of being thrown out" excuse, but when it comes with other regimes the West particularly the U.S. wants to destablise, the reporters take the aura of brave, courageous journalists who dare to speak the truth regardless of the consequences. I think the reporters or their editors decision to regurgate the line provided by officials of the Meles regime or his diplomatic backers is a deliberate choice not something forced upon them. One may argue it is the result of group thinking. After all the diplomats and the journalists refelect the same dominant eurocentric view of we-know-what-is-better-for-you attitude. No surprise if the reporters found the diplomats' language to be of sense & then echo it. Their brain has to be rewired for them to learn that policy wonks from the West and their embassy affiliates are not the only ones endowed with wisdom. Menelik II, Gandhi & Ho Chi Minh, have proven that the god given wisdom of the humble natives they have learned to look down would outsmart them in the end.

Anonymous said...

Nice report, Zagol. Very informative.

Let's not forget that the donor community - Western journalists, donor governments, NGO's, and other foreign institutions - have an inherent accountability problem. Their local populations could care less about foreign aid and (development) foreign policy - they mostly care about things happening in their own countries. The recipient populations care, but they do not pay the cheques for the donor community, so they have no way of forcing it to pay attention. So in the end, the donor community is accountable to no one but their own ethical code. This is a reality for all developing countries, not only Ethiopia.

Someone once said, "When people realize things are going wrong, there are two questions they can ask. One is, 'What did we do wrong?' and the other is, 'Who did this to us?' The latter leads to conspiracy theories and paranoia. The first question leads to another line of thinking: 'How do we put it right?'"

If Ethiopians in the diaspora and locally could get their act together and stand up for their rights with a modicum of unison, things would have a chance of improving. Let's all work towards this end.

Anonymous said...

Journalists are like kids and governments are like parents. Kids should be free to go most places but they have to tell thier parents. Imagine if these journalists get abducted, who would be attempting to rescue them? And whose countrys reputation will get bad? I really don't understand the ALL NEGATIVE opinion towards the Ethiopian government. I personally don't approve most of the things that the EPRDF is doing but these are the issues that I agree with them. YOur story doesn't hold water.

Anonymous said...

You are an idiot EZ. You are like a child, but a child with a job at the European Union.

Anonymous said...

That is all bull! Journalists are the web of Government they wok under. Its like the story of the Zimbawean farmers (squaters called by western journalists) blame the disturbance on the natives. They never reported the hardship the farmers were going thru after giving their lives to liberate their country they were left with NOTHING! No western journalist have ever reported the ordeal of these farmers. Suddenly there are two or three white rich farmers are murdered all of a sudden the western journalists flooded the offices of the Zimbebweans leader and his ministers.

Right away it gives all the sympathy GWB and Tony blair were looking for from the journalists to go ahead and invest public money to impose economic sanction against a poor African country. Who dies at the end to justify GWB's and Tony blairs ego, it is the children of that country die by thousands, no medication to the country. The ministers and the families of Ministers GWB and Tony blair are targeting get their medications and food and even DRINKS from neigboring countries brought to them in a slver platter. So don't believe there is FREE-PRESS, there is no free press. Western Journalists are used a justification for a country to release its taxpayers money to use it as a means of "punishing bad governments" the truth is far from it.

Anonymous said...

Forget about the appeasers, they wouldn’t stand next to you brother. With all resources they have, they wouldn’t have carried half the story of what you did so far, they wouldn’t have captured half what you did in the Weyane Cangaroo court, specially of the all the nuances and moments that could have been lost in the translation. Thanks to you and the lewit blogger, every proceeding is now documented so none of the Judges will be able to spin a different narrative, history and God will be the righteous judge to them,. We know all that because of you.

May God bless you and thanks for being