Lidetu sees moderate stance bearing no fruit

January 22, 2009


Becoming the first to use parliament’s ‘Opposition Day’ three years in a row, the United Ethiopian Democratic Party-Medhin Party (UEDP-Medhin) proposed to issue a directive to correct what it says is the Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency’s poor and unbalanced coverage.
The proposal was, however, turned down by the ruling party majority and affiliated parties, upsetting UEDP-Medhin chair, Lidetu Ayalew.
“It is a disappointment to see the ruling party opposing this agenda only because it came from an opposition group, especially after our party has endured strong criticism due to its moderate stance between the ruling party and other opposition groups,” Lidetu said.
UEDP-Medhin, in its agenda, explained that it has observed the both government TV and radio performing efficiently to promote government activities. The agency’s coverage, however, has been criticized for ignoring and misstating reports concerning the public and political parties whose interests’ it was created to promote.
“In any democratic country public media should promote a majority elected government’s polices; this is what the agency has been doing,” said Government Deputy Whip, Netsanet Asfaw, explaining why her party doesn’t see the need to issue a new directive. “Since we are poor, our journalists don’t have the equipment like in western countries have, and thus efficiency can be improved together with our capacity. However, the trend of reporting even in western democracies the same compared with our agency. For example, you will see the current US President Bush disappear from the country’s media as did Clinton when another party took office,” Netsanet explained.
MP Dawit Tefera, who chairs the House’s Information and Cultural Affairs Standing Committee, also defended the function of the media agency, which he said bases its actions on its own editorial policy governed by an independent board.
However, for the opposition United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) and Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) whips, the agency’s operations have been anything but fair or satisfying.
“We need to either transfer it to the private sector or restructure as it has wasted taxpayers’ money, ‚ÄúLegesse Beratu, CUD whip, complained.
The recent reporting of Birtukan Mideksa’s interrogation and arrest was case in point for the opposition
“Where was the professionalism of balanced news? Did they ask Birtukan what she says about the accusation pressed against her? Did they ask what others, other than the government, say on the matter,” asked Gebru Gebermarim, UEDF whip, before Lidetu took his turn and labeled Ethiopian radio and TV the worst on the globe, only toping its Eritrean counterpart.
Lidetu advised not to try to match US media reporting with Ethiopian especially as the case in America shows the opposition Democratic Party nominee enjoying huge publicity in the last two years, driving the current president’s Republican Party nominee to complain of media ignorance.
“Reporting on the ruling party’s organizational congress for six days in a row and writing a single news story in just one of our 16 consecutive press releases cannot be fair and well-rounded service,” Lidedtu said. “Last year this house passed a bill empowering the Ministry of Information, which was recently dissolved and replaced. Now even if our proposal is opposed we will see a bill, very similar with ours, proposed and passed in a year or so.”