Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Why couldn't #Ethiopia/n government welcome the new journalists' Forum optimistically?

Ethiopian Journalists Forum is a young independent journalists association that undergone its founding assembly two months ago. The Forum, therefore, has - according to law - three months of time since its assembly to be counted as one of registered associations to work towards its goal while processing to acquire license. It is now in this period of grace. However, government media (especially Addis Zemen) launched a campaign against the Forum even before it gets its license and start functioning.

The Ethiopian government has never been a friend to any civil society. The ‘charity law' that extremely limits foreign financing of civil societies that work on rights issues and the 70/30 project cost regulation which also indirectly limits awareness creating activities, both, were passed because the government undermines (or even dislikes) the role of civil societies in the democratization process. In this regard, we can't expect love of a new association from a ‘head' that killed thousands of civil societies in passing restrictive rules and regulations. 

In addition to that, the independent media and Ethiopian government never had a friendly relationship; the former strongly criticize the latter which gags them in a negative response to it. So, ‘journalists association' means to our government the sum of two evils. In this premise, it's no wonder that the Ethiopian government is not optimist about the upcoming Forum. But, why is it so pessimist about an association that isn't even proved will stand strong?

Addis Zemen published many stories that label the new journalists' Forum as agent for ‘color revolution'. ETv produced a documentary without directly mentioning the Forum but by condemning both the ‘color revolution' and media use as a tool promoting it. It hated the Forum enough to label it before its establishment. But, its fear of civil societies and the media are not the only factors that made the government this much overwhelmed of the Forum. The already existing journalists' Associations have fueled the fire.

Anteneh Abraham is an all-time president of Ethiopian National Journalists Union (ENJU). His Association always has the same stand with the government. It claims there are no journalists who are jailed for what they have written. The president, as the saying goes ‘more catholic than the pope', is more EPRDFite than EPRDF in itself. He was the first person to accuse this newly born Forum for being a ‘foreign agent' in Addis Admass newspaper. Why? Because Anteneh knew that the Forum will reveal ENJU's real identity.

ENJU is a relatively and undeservedly accepted union of journalists in a few international societies. It's even a member of International Forum of Journalists (IFJ) and yet it never considered the imprisonment and exiling of journalists a challenge to the media. All the journalists it has as members are from Walta and Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC) - both are mouthpieces of the government as they are businesses run by TPLF heads.

The new Forum, while processing the license, has been informed from the ‘Charity Agency' that there is a compliant from the existing Associations. The compliant is not clear for me yet. But, it is a compliant from ENJU and others.

These Associations, wearing two hats, want to fool the international community and get recognition while at the same time attend for sweet dishes with the ruling party i.e. serving the needs of it. This can't sustain if EJF comes to life. Therefore, to stop or not to stop this Forum before formation is a battle for life for these fake journalists' Associations. They won't stop it unless one of them are successfully defeated. Unfortunately, the fake Associations have one thing that the Forum hasn't: they have the government's support.

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