Back to Front Page

“Facts are Sacred”

“Facts are Sacred”

Amen Teferi 02-27-17

Dear Editor,

I read the report published on Feb. 12, 2017, titled “How long can Ethiopia’s state of emergency keep the lid on anger?” bylined - William Davidson. I hope the aforementioned report is not a sacrosanct statement of truth scribbled by a journalist who has the monopoly of truth. The Guardian may have an undisputed monopoly of the global communication system but not of truth. Hence, I am here to dispute Mr. William Davidson’s report -my venture in “Jewish journalism.”

I read Mr. William Davidson “journalese” without displeasure and discomposure. Mr. Davidson’s piece is not sloppy; but it has menacing qualities that willfully distort the truth.

In my view, Mr. William Davidson’s report is heavily marred with unsubstantiated and unattributed claims that give a malicious tone to his report and the piece is a fiasco in the professional journalism The Guardian aspires for.

As a journalist working for a prestigious media, like The Guardian, Mr. William Davidson is expected to grasp well all sides of the story he opted to cover and truthfully report to his readers. He is supposed to read the facts on the ground objectively. He is not assigned and salaried to misread or misreport. In fact, if he continues to do what he does now, he will not get anywhere but damage the reputation of the media establishment he is working for.

Dear Editor,

You may ask “who dares to speak thus?” It is me, Amen, and not Frantz Fanon.

I am imbued with sympathize for professional journalists and tolerance for their common mistakes. But Mr. Davidson’s piece is an affront to ethical and professional journalism. To begin with he dubbed the “State of Emergency” the Ethiopian government enacted in October last year in an attempt to stem 11 months of protests, as “draconian.”

But what does he mean?

The phrase “draconian law” is a general designation for any legislation that is “severe, inflexible, and of wide application.” Well, our state of emergency was meant to be so. What does he want to purport when he say draconian? Does he imply that the council of ministers of the federal government of Ethiopia has enacted the “State of Emergency” on a false assumption that there is “a breakdown of law and order which endangered the constitutional order and which cannot be controlled by the regular law enforcement mechanism and personnel?”

As he does!

 

However, Mr. Davidson himself wrote that “Some demonstration were [initially] peaceful; others involved torching investments [foreign as well as local] and government offices.” Thus, the need for enacting the state of emergency that he nicknamed it as “draconian.” But then, Mr. Davidson goes on about and added, “Although that decree has suppressed unrest, the farmer thinks demonstrations will start anew.” This is his opinion and he must have gone loco.

 

I think the issue at hand is very difficult to get fix on, even for an experienced expert in the field, let alone to Mr. Davidson’s anonymous farmer. All the same, the farmer Mr. Davidson’s talked to has reportedly told us that “The solution is the government has to come with true democracy. The people are waiting until the state of emergency is over and then people are ready to begin to protest.”

He also told us that “the emergency has led to the detention of at least 25,000 people,” but he gave us no clue whether these people are still detained or not. For sure, Mr. Davidson knows that all but only few hundred detainees, that are suspect of criminal offenses, are still under custody.

Mr. Davidson will leave us in the dark about a crucial thing that matters most to the story he trying to impart, in that stead he will narrate a side - trivia issue: “security forces aren’t visible on roads flanked by fields with workers wielding curved sickles to harvest crops.”

From the word go, Mr. Davidson was getting at the message that the protest will come again. “Beyond that seeming normality, there is pervasive discontent …” Mr. Davidson reported; and as “another young Oromo man in Ejere town,” who reportedly asked to be kept anonymous told him, “The protests will come again because the government is not responding to the demands of the people in the right way.”

 

To make the long story short, the report has unequivocally shown Mr. Davidson’s expertise in manipulating stories, with a superlative dexterity in agenda setting. He leaves every door open, at every turn of the story, to escape blame and to defend himself.

 

I see nothing newsworthy in his story. But as the six months state of emergency is coming nearer to its closure, he is preparing the stage (as he implied in the words of the Ejere who purportedly said: “People need new faces and a new system”) to set in another round of violent protest to effect regime change.

 

As he is winding-up his story he rather becomes more overt and decided to embed his opinion into the story saying: “The problem for activists is how to translate popular anger stemming from grievances into political change (1). ….Now the demands are less policy-oriented due to outrage over repression (2)…. there’s little chance of the desired systemic reform.”

 

The problem he saw in effecting “the desired systemic reform” or in advancing the “regime change” project (as it is commonly referred) is the security apparatus. According to Mr. Davidson “the security apparatus has shown it can quell protests and a de facto one-party state offers few opportunities for opposition activities.” This problem is further “reinforced by the arrest in November of Merera Gudina the most high-profile Oromo opposition leader not in jail or abroad.”

As a passing remark Mr. Davidson noted that “He [Merera Gudina] was accused of breaking emergency rules by communicating with a banned nationalist opposition leader at a European parliament hearing in Brussels.”

 

Wait a minute, who is this “banned nationalist opposition leader?”  Your readers in the west need some explanations to fully understand what you are trying to purport in the phrase “banned nationalist opposition leader.”   

 

The person you referred is Dr. Birhanu Nega, leader of Ginbot 7; an organization named by the federal parliament as a terrorist group and publicly vowed to topple down the Ethiopian government through violent means and engaged itself in terrorist attacks that have claimed the lives of many innocent civilians. That is the full side of the story.

 

Mr. Davidson is smuggling his opinions through “farmers and young Oromos” who have allegedly “asked for their views to be kept anonymous” and through the so called “Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)” that is not based in Ethiopia whose periodical reports are exclusively based on a hear-say. He might have taken the allegation of AHRE from its website and simply say “according to Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia, the security forces gunned down as many as 600 protesters.”

 

Mr. Davidson will become more intolerable, not to say wicked for the sake of decency, when he has blindly noted that “Despite evident progress, Ethiopia, where the population of close to 100 million is Africa’s second largest, still lies 174th out of 188 countries on the UN’s 2015 human development index, below South Sudan and Afghanistan.” It is nothing other than madness that has led him to note, without any qualm what so ever, that South Sudan and Afghanistan are better than Ethiopia.

 I do not understand the politics of economics and the esoteric wisdom of statistics. But the exoteric wisdom tells us, “lies, damned Lies and statistics.” Here it would be suffice to mention that China, with the second largest economy in the world, stood well below the bankrupted Greece (29), the unknown Cyprus (32), Barbados (57) and Seychelles (64) among others. You may even abhor the report when you see that the war-torn and failed state Libya (94) is only four steps away from China, while the war ravaged and failed state Yemen (160) ranked well above Ethiopia that stood 174th in the 2015 UN human development index.

The bottom-line is the once famine-stricken country Ethiopia has made a remarkable double digit growth over the past decade that enabled it to lift millions out of poverty and become a shining example for Africa. In its November 2015 press release The World Bank had announced that Ethiopia’s “GDP growth averaged 10.9 percent in 2004-2014 and Ethiopia has moved from the second poorest in the world in 2000 and if it can keep the current pace, it’s on its way towards becoming a middle income country by 2025.” In fact, Ethiopia is a host for over eight hundred thousand South Sudanese refugees, but it is also hub for a flock multinational companies and “brand” investors.

Here, I would like to point out that media like The Guardian ought to be rigorous in separating news from opinion. But Mr. Davidson’s report reminds me the pseudo-journalism that had degraded and abused the innocent French military officer Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus’s affair is often seen as a modern and universal symbol of injustice where the press played major role in that complex miscarriage justice.

However, the vehement open letter written by the famed French novelist Emile Zola changed the fate of Dreyfus. Zola said: “It is a crime to lead public opinion astray, to manipulate it for a death-dealing purpose and pervert it to the point of delirium.”

He added; “I have said it elsewhere and I repeat it here: if the truth is buried underground, it swells and grows and becomes so explosive that  the day it bursts, it blows everything wide open along with it.” By the way, where is that Zola when we need him very much?

 

 


Back to Front Page