By Birhanemeskel Abebe Segni*
When one looks at the media landscape in Ethiopia (both the print and the broadcasting media), for more than one century, successive Ethiopian regimes have used the public resources and government apparatus to build, educate and inform only the Amharic-speaking segment of the population (not necessarily the ethnic Amhara per se), which constitutes less than one fourth of the Ethiopian population.
The century-long segregationist government media policy has enabled this Amharic-speaking group to fortify itself in the urban areas, government civil service institutions, religious and cultural institutions of all sorts; and specifically, it has enabled this group to be the economically and politically favored and empowered. The economic, political, linguistic, social and cultural fabrics and institutions of the over 70 percent of the Ethiopian population had been forcefully and systematically dismantled; and the people were left in the dark for the silent communal extermination over a period of time.
Even today, almost all media institutions established in the name of Ethiopia by the elements of this group, both at home and in the Diaspora, serve the exclusive interests of this group. To the utter dismay of the 75% of the marginalized and segregated segment of the Ethiopian population, even foreign government media outlets, such as the United States Government funded Voice of America (VOA)’s Amharic radio program, and the German Government funded Deutsche Welle’s Amharic program are systematically made to serve the exclusive interests of this group; all in the name of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people.
The advent of the Oromia Media Network (OMN), soon to be inaugurated, on this segregationist media environment in Ethiopia is one major step forward to reach the hitherto excluded Oromo people, who constitute over 40 percent of the Ethiopian population. To further create a credible alternative media platform that reaches the more than 70% of the Ethiopian population excluded by the old segregationist media policy, continued measures need to be taken by including the excluded segment of our people in the South and make our people the beneficiary of the 21st century information driven global economic, political and cultural progresses. Congratulations to all the initiators, organizers and supporters of the Oromia Media Network.
* Birhanemeskel Abebe Segni is an Attorney & Counselor at Law, and a former Legal Affairs Advisor in the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations.