The Western Media

October 29, 2012

By Belachew Mekuria Fikre, Addis Ababa University Centre for Human Rights

The Western media have an established role in their own home politics by tacitly or explicitly backing a particular party or candidate for higher political offices. So they take sides with unfulfilled efforts of pretence to be professional, i.e., they try to be engaged in neutral reporting. But everybody knows which side CNN, or SkyNews or NBS stand. From the inception of a campaign circus till the last night of an election day, and then beginning from the victory speech until the start of the next election they keep on digging holes to find a fact or something closer to it either to the credit or debt of the one they support or oppose without relenting.

Their modus operandi on Africa’s socio-political life is however simple and uniform; they always and with no remorse look for the negatives, the non-existent security threats, or the far-fetched famine outbreak or other disaster in a manner that puts them as suspects for wanting Africa to be at war with itself at all times. It has been two months since Ethiopia’s long time ruler had died at the age of 57. So, presumably, the nation is grieving for its loss of a man whom most of young generation knew as its charismatic and inspiring public figure. Looking at the international media headlines is however threatening and compels anyone who cares for the country to question under what ethics these establishments are working. Some of the headlines that had attracted wider readership were; ‘Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi’s death sparks fears of turmoil’ (The Guardian); ‘Ethiopia in flux after leader dies’ (Wall Street Journal); ‘Ethiopian succession battle may test stability of key US ally’ (Businessweek); ‘Death of Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi plunges country into uncertainty’ (Telegraph); ‘Ethiopia faces an uncertain future’ (The Independent); ‘Meles Zenawi death a headache for the West’ (Telegraph); ‘Meles Zenawi’s death raises threat of instability in Ethiopia and beyond’ (The Guardian); ‘Death of polarising PM leaves Ethiopia in limbo’ (The Independent), and the list goes on and on. These are not unprecedented as they have become very familiar and they know how to choose headlines to put everyone concerned in a state of fear of the future.

What hunts one’s attention is why these same reporters fail to see anything positive, and why they do not regard optimism as something good for humanity. Clearly there were signs illuminating on the up-coming smooth transfer of power that just in time materialised to the unrepentant dismay of these same media outlets. Gambling under the shadows of the past and denying outright the slightest chance for optimism, they were rather busy cooking stories of disaster, the upcoming Armageddon on the lives of 80 million Ethiopians.

When engaging in their discursive exercise on dictatorship and authoritarianism in Africa the western Media utterly fail to remember how the West’s so called democratic culture is rooted in much repressions of the past as in the present such as the abhorred cases of the likes of Guantanamo Bay. I believe that in this world of imperfections and yet where the universal truth of human equality is repeatedly asserted any progress towards a just world can only be possible with the media playing its role with impartiality and truthfulness. For example, it would have been more useful to cover the stories of the people of Ethiopia who have been more united in grieves, though for long, they have been divided on the basis of so many fault lines.

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