By: Enoch Sithole-

Journalism educators in Ethiopia are establishing the Ethiopian Journalism Educators’ Network to bring together media academics from the country’s 24 institutions that offer journalism education.

Ajenda interviewed Zelalem Tesfaye who is Assistant Professor of Journalism and Director of Broadcast Media at Bahir Dar University, who plays a key role in the establishment of the network.

Ajenda: Can you please give an outline of journalism education in Ethiopia?

ZT: Journalism education in Ethiopia is one of the key stakeholders in the media landscape of the country. They are mainly engaged in teaching, researching, and coaching journalists. It also provides some insights for policymakers to make policy amendments in journalism education, and journalism, in general, in the country.

Ajenda: What sort of issues is journalism education dealing with?

ZT: It has a number of issues to deal with, like, for example, bringing quality journalism in the country through researching and teaching, supervising, that sort of thing. 

Ajenda: What is the purpose of establishing the journalism educators’ network?

ZT: The purpose of establishing this network is to bring together like-minded individuals, who are scholars, on the same page. Back in the past, journalism was being taught in a very scattered manner. So, even the resources we used to employ for teaching and researching were quite different. The network will just simply bring all these people together to be on the same page, share resources and ultimately bring about quality journalism.

 Ajenda: What sort of plans do you have for the network for the near future? 

ZT: We are actually in the process of registering the network with the Ethiopian civil service as a civil society organization. In the future, we are going to have a strong network within and beyond Ethiopia, among the different journalism schools in the country as well as the region. So, our future plan is just to strengthen our network to bring about a meaningful impact on journalism education in the country and in the region.

Ajenda: What sort of issues is professional journalism dealing with in the country?

ZT: There are several issues. Journalism has gone digital, globally. We are lagging behind as we are still sticking to the traditional form of journalism. So, we are promoting digital journalism, as well as public service journalism for public good. Digital technology has created a lot of room for disinformation and misinformation, and we are trying to fight that.

Ajenda: You had a conflict a short while ago in Tigray, how did journalism perform in covering that conflict? 

ZT: Journalism in Ethiopia is suffering from polarization. There are regional media institutions in different regions of the country. Each media institution in each region seems to have some kind of affiliation within that region. This renders the media incapable of dealing with an issue of national interest. Through the Journalism Educators’ Network we are trying to bring these polarized media institutions together through discussion so that they can minimize the gap and ultimately report on what will work for the country.

Ajenda: How do you hope to achieve that from a journalism education point of view?

 ZT: I have been holding a number of workshops and seminars pertaining to the conflict in northern Ethiopia. So, for example, we had a big national conference on the role of journalism at times of conflict. The conference dealt with issues such as what kind of responsibility journalists have. 

Ajenda: What was the response of the various media houses and individual journalists?

It’s still a long way to go as we have just started. Hopefully, we will, in future, execute a number of other related activities. There appears to be some kind of positive progress in minimizing the gap and working for peace in the country. 

Ajenda: Has the network dealt with issues of freedom of the media in the country, and, if so, how are you doing in that area? 

The very purpose of establishing the network is to bring quality journalism. One way to do that is handling issues like those. We have had workshops and seminars where we have invited policymakers, government representatives, and political parties. There were heated debates and discussions in some of them. This is how we believe we can promote quality journalism.