My Message To The Media: Stop Reporting False Narratives Based On Unverified Information
Now, more than ever, members of the press must abide by the most stringent ethical standards. We live in an unprecedented and unparalleled age of misinformation and disinformation. We have seen the media’s ability to be the enabler of both positive change, and insidious insurrection. Unfortunately, major print media has been reporting one side of the conflict in Tigray, painting murderous militias and insurrectionists as freedom fighters and revolutionaries. It has reported falsehoods and condemnation against the Ethiopian government. Claiming the Ethiopian government is complicit in “massacres, torture, rapes, abductions, and the looting” in Tigray. While prefacing their reporting as “unconfirmed” and “not independently verified”.
It is difficult to divorce our empathy for our brothers and sisters from the visceral reaction such media reporting engenders, whether it is false or not. As Ethiopians, we must be prudent in our ingestion of the news. But we must also demand more than gratuitous condemnation based on “unconfirmed and unverified reports”. We must demand objectivity and the good faith use of op-ed pages instead of blatant political advocacy. While journalists are entitled to their opinions, they are paid to disseminate facts, not “unconfirmed and unverified” facts.
When reporting on the conflict in Tigray, the media should heed the objective remarks of Tibor Nagy (begins at 02:58), U.S. Asst. Sec. for African Affairs:
“It is important to remember here there is no equivalency. There are not two states which have been belligerent with each other. You have a sovereign government, on the one hand, Ethiopia, and on the other, you have a region of Ethiopia the leadership of which basically started a conflict against the government… [T]he best evidence is that the Tigrean leadership … wanted to use the opportunity basically to overthrow the prime minister and return to the type of privilege that they had enjoyed within the Ethiopian state for the last 27 years…”
by Ambassador Fitsum Arega