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Zecharias Zelalem @ZekuZelalem
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THREAD: Time for a discussion on the state of news reporting in the #Somali region. A look at the key sources of information permitted to work on the ground. The situation is dire to say the least. #Ethiopia
As is well known, since 2008 the #Somali region had been under a total blockade enforced by former President Abdi Illey. Meaning beyond state outlets like EBC, media outlets and rights groups were barred access to the region.
Over the years, Abdi Illey organized a consortium of like minded ideologically similar outlets and bloggers to gain access and monopolize the reporting from the region. A considerable amount of investment locked down the region's journalism into the single celled realm it became.
Let's start with one such outlet, @CakaaraNews. Since 2009, Cakaara News have claimed to be an impartial source of news on the region, based in Jijiga.
Among content circulated by its staff and shared by their social media networks videos like this one, praising the Liyu Police. The Cakaara team are known to upload graphic videos depicting dead bodies of people clamed to be ONLF fighters killed in battle.
Cakaara network was among those who took a leading role in sharing and promoting a video said to have shown two Swedish journalists being arrested while trying to enter the region. The video is widely believed to have been orchestrated.
As you can see here, the Cakaara news website is still live, but hasn't been updated since August 3rd, a day before Ethiopian troops rolled into Jijiga. This suggests that the editorial team were likely receiving orders directly from the Somali regional government itself.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Somali Television, the state broadcaster and core of the pro Abdi propaganda network has been going through some internal reforms as of late.
As you may recall, during the federal army's August 4th capture of Jijiga, the headquarters of ESTV was among the first buildings immediately targeted and surrounded by federal troops.
The website has obviously gone through editorial changes, and has clearly warmed up to the fact that there is a new President in Mustafa Omer. Expect a total transformation of the network's content, similar to what we've seen happen at federal broadcaster ETV in recent times.
Next...among outlets permitted to operate in the region, @AwrambaTimes run by founder Dawit Kebede. Awramba also staked a claim to valuing "impartiality" and being a source for credible news.
Dawit Kebede has used his access to the region to write glowing reports of former President Abdi and the Liyu Police. He has been granted interview requests with members of the regional government,something that is otherwise impossible, I know I've tried.
It later emerged that Dawit Kebede was among a group of media personnel secretly on the payroll of the former TPLF run federal government paid to disseminate news favourable to the regime narrative.
google.ca/amp/s/globalvo…
Dawit Kebede was later known to have been given an office in Jijiga by the Abdi Illey government where Awramba Times could operate from. But if Awramba had staff on the ground in Jijiga we should have expected coverage on the chaos in Jijiga right?
Wrong. This is the very last update from Jijiga given by an "impartial" media outlet on the ground. Awramba Times claimed on Aug 7th that Abdi Illey had returned to Jijiga and would resume duties as President. This obviously never materialized. It's their last update from Jijiga.
Since August 7th, Awramba Times have posted no further updates on the region, failing to grant coverage to either the resignation and house arrest of Abdi Illey or the election of a new President. Today, their focus has been on Ashenda festivities.
Also permitted to travel to the region, recently closed controversial @ENNTelevision network.
The fonder of ENN, is Benyam Kebede, who first founded the website Ethiopianfirst dot com. Both the website and the television network similarly provided coverage favourable to the Abdi Illey leadership.
Benyam's ENN was recently discovered to have been supported by funds gained from tax payer enterprises, Ethio Telecom, Commercial Bank of Ethiopia among others. Benyam's proximity to former NISS official Getachew Assefa is believed to have gained him their financial backing.
Benyam is well known for his controversial reporting style, including an incident in which he was filmed next to the body of a dead Al Shabab commander in #Somalia. Since the closure of ENN, he has avoided interview requests and has disappeared from the radar.
The likes of @HornAffairs are also believed to have been financial beneficiaries of the deposed Abdi Illey leadership. Although their staff are not known to operate from a base in the region.
So to resume, journalism and independent reporting on the ground in the #Somali region has for the past decade been reserved for paid propagandists loosely affiliated with either the TPLF dominated EPRDF administrations, or the Abdi Illey led regional government. #Ethiopia
I'm hoping that under the new President, the state of media in the region will be revamped and the monopoly on information ended. Professional and credible outlets will hopefully be able to draw a much more realistic picture of what goes on in the region.
Local Somali outlets should be able to freely voice the concerns and aspirations of their people, while journalists who don't hail from the region should be permitted to travel to and report from the region while respecting the norms and ethics of the game.
Here's to a new era. One that I hope will have Somali journalists thriving as messengers of the region's muzzled and oppressed. I hope to be tweeting from an internet cafe in Jiiga soon as well hehe.
FIN.
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