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Oromia Media Network Statements: Political Intimidations and Harassments Will Not Deter Us! March 19, 2020

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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Political Intimidations and Harassments Will Not Deter Us!

OMN statements (For immediate release)

Esteemed audience of OMN

The management of OMN has hereby found it important to publicize the multifaceted intimidations and pressures being exerted on this an historic media which did brand itself as the authentic voice of peoples. Established in March 2014 through grassroots-driven mobilizations and commitments of the Oromo diaspora all over the world, the OMN been championing peoples’ struggle for justice, democracy and freedom in Oromia and the wider Ethiopia. Following the call of the reformist government, at least by the notion of the day, for diaspora-based media houses run by exiled dissidents, OMN-Finfinne was established in August 2018 in Finfinne/Addis Ababa, the capital city of the state of Oromia and also of the federal government in Ethiopia. OMN has since been operating in Ethiopia according to the laws of the land with its headquarters based in Finfinne and branch offices in some major cities/towns in Oromia like Nekemte, Shashemene, Dire Dhawa, Harar, and Bale Robe. The media house has been working hard to contribute its fair share in supporting the positive developments and their subsequent consolidation in the socio-cultural, political and economic arenas during these testing times of so called “transition”.

That said, it’s important to bring to the attentions of our audience and also to the international community that state-led interventions and encroachments into the hitherto widened free media space have become more evident and quite recently, that has even been scaled up making it difficult for independent media houses like the OMN to freely operate in the country. Further more, in what appears to be a systematically maneuvered move taken to build a case against the OMN with an ultimate goal of annihilating it, the Ethiopian government, via its watchdog organization called Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA), has been sending out intimidatory letters, almost all of which being composed based on unfounded allegations.

Complaints and accusations that came to OMN from/via EBA

1-The case of an investigative documentary produced as solicited by the OMN itself on a government official’s involvement in gross human rights violations in Oromia, Ethiopia. The government official’s complaint came via EBA. The OMN then wrote to EBA an extensive response, sufficiently establishing factual accuracies, evidences and content sources questioned by the complaint presenter. The government official who presented his complaints was, and still remains, in a top leadership echelons of the ruling party and EBA dropped the case without any reaction on OMN’s response in a move which looks like was made to protect the government official.

2- The case in which the communications affairs office of the Amhara National Regional State (ANRS) accused the OMN for reporting on events that happened in the regional state. The OMN reported on some lingering conflicts rooted in the judicial demands of some distinct identity groups like the Agaw, the Qumant and Oromo who have been territorially incorporated in the ANRS, according to the existing federalist state structures. The ANRS government’s commitment to address the demands of these identity groups can be rated minimal to none, empirical evidences suggest, and that is precisely what drives these conflicts. The OMN did respond to ANRS’ accusations, using all the evidences available at its disposal, thereby sufficiently establishing the sources of the contents used in our reports. In addition, as part of its regular routines in balancing stories involving counter-claims and/or divergent views, the OMN did write a letter calling the government of the ANRS to send its representatives to our studio and use our media platform to express their version of the account or perspectives on the story. But they ignored the call to come out and express their views about it on the OMN. What can OMN do beyond this?

3-The case in which the Ministry of Science and Higher Education (MSHE) filed complaints on OMN reports concerning the problems that Oromo students enrolled in Universities found in ANRS were facing. As in both of the cases above, OMN did defend, providing sufficient evidences, the sources it used in its reports on the matter and the accuracy of the information therein. What’s more, interesting about this case was that an official assigned and sent by the Ministry appeared, twice, on the OMN, as per our invitation, to explain the Ministry’s point of view on the students’ stories we did report on.

4-The other one is the case in which a self-proclaimed religious vanguard organization claiming to be the defender of the “rights and respects” of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church (EOTC) accused the OMN of transmitting the opinion of one EOTC follower, in fact himself a preacher for the congregants of the church in some western and southwestern parts of Oromia, who happen to have a differing opinion on the existing administrative structures of the EOTC. This case made it more clearer for the OMN management that accusations sent to us by EBA are politically motivated and hence have realistically little-to-nothing to do with the authority’s legally stated regulatory roles. Look, what OMN did was LIVE transmit Mr Hailemichael’s public speech in Salale, in which he made points counter to the contending others concerning the disputed internal administrative structures of the EOTC, as so known by the public by now and also by then. It’s all known that making opinion is essentially an individual’s entitlement and Mr Hailemichael’s opinion cannot be any different. It therefore has nothing to do with the OMN what so ever. Grossly ignoring this fundamental truth and also turning down OMN management’s well substantiated response letter on the accusations, EBA wrote an unfounded “warning letter” to the OMN. They wrote this letter in a way that exposed their true intentions: politically motivated intimidation and harassment. By copying their unfounded “warning letter” to higher executive offices of the government including to the Offices of the Prime Minister and the National Intelligence and Security Services — offices whose roles are neither directly nor indirectly related to regulating the country’s media landscape — they exposed their politically motivated intentions of intimidating and harassing the OMN and other independent media outlets operating in the country. OMN legal team have already filed an appeal on their politically motivated decision. It should be pointed out here that up until they took a U-turn by writing the said “warning letter”, EBA had been showing good gestures to foster smooth working relations with the OMN — which we now realized was just a pretension. It should also be pointed out that it was only a month or so after EBA’s delegation led by its higher leadership, including the Director General, had a meeting with the OMN management team which was concluded with a pretty much positive spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation.

The Latest Hassles and Harassments

We believe that our audiences are closely following the latest rounds of politically motivated intimidations and harassments that OMN had to endure because of a personal opinion of a woman who expressed her idea about cross-cultural marriage, while OMN was doing LIVE transmission, on a public event organized to celebrate the International Women’s Day on March 8. The government, the detractors and the adversaries of this historic Oromo media seem to have joined hands in catching this opportunity to try to destroy the OMN. Here too, there are indicators showing that these multilateral campaigns waged on the OMN are rooted in political motivations. One of such indicators is the uncalled but prompt intervention of the country’s highest executive office, Office of the Prime Minister, in which the press secretary head at the Office, Mr Nigusu Tilahun, sent out an intimidatory message to the OMN last Monday, 9th of March 2020 via one of the ruling-party-affiliated-media outlet called Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC). The Prime Minister Office did this before EBA, the primarily concerned office, made any statement on the matter. It’s pity that media outlets like FBC still work with the government to undertake targeted attacks against independent media like the OMN. We at the OMN pursue the policy of not in any way dwelling on the weaknesses of other outlets in the country’s media landscape. But we realize that there are some media houses legally operating in the country which work to destabilize the country, target specific national groups for their propaganda and hate campaigns, stock conflicts among Ethiopia’s various nations and nationalities and often disseminate false information. Important to be understood at this point in time is the fact that OMN was established as an activist media in the diaspora but now working hard to rebrand itself as an independent media through capacity building and enhanced pursuits of its existing core values: professionalism, performance and passion. OMN did demonstrate, beyond any reasonable doubt, its firm stance and determinations in defending freedom of expression, democracy and justice and will never succumb to harassments and intimidations, never ever flinch back even an inch, because of these latest intimidations and harassments. It will continue undeterred in doing its job by respecting the laws of the land.

Future prospectives

We are often asked why OMN does focus on Oromian affairs. This is also one of the criticisms we receive in EBA’s monitoring and evaluation reports. But we have always unapologetically clear that OMN got a cause, a just cause of defending the truth of the Oromo people which had historically been renilgated to the edges by the ages old sedimented biases that shaped Ethiopia’s media landscape, which in turn was defined by the state-sponsored media outlets that long created an unfairly asymmetrical south-north divide of peoples’ narratives, histories, memories and over all developments in peoples’ cultures and languages. OMN strives to counter these unfair asymmetries rooted in history thereby putting Oromia and the Oromo people on the global epistemological, economic, social and political maps. In short, OMN strives to bring Oromia and the Oromo people to the world and also the world to Oromia and the Oromo people. We at the OMN believe that there is nothing wrong in pursuing this great cause of our people and there even exist a sufficiently virtuous reason to do so. What is more, we focus on Oromian an affair doesn’t mean we never care for other linguistic, cultural and political communities in the Ethiopian federation. We really do and our works on the ground are testaments for our words here. OMN is the only truly multilingual media outlet in the entire history Ethiopia’s private media industry and given the intent, one can argue that it remains so even when compared to the government owned ones. We almost regularly reach out to our audiences in Afaan Oromoo, Amharic, Somali, Wolayita, Sidama, Hadiya and Halaba. We are working to further diversify our services in many more Ethiopian languages. Our Arabic and English services were active in the past. We will reactivate and resume them in the soonest. Our determinations for services in diverse languages emanate from our moral dedications for the fairer share of Ethiopia’s media space by the country’s diverse cultural and linguistic groups. We therefore reject, flat out, the allegations by some pathologically biased mono-lingual media out lets in Ethiopia who paradoxically got the audacity to label the OMN as an “ethnic media” — a term they often employ to confirm their sedimented socio-cultural and political biases and prejudices. For us at the OMN, our works out there really tell who we are and what we are doing. And more importantly in the future too, we are open to all.

Finally,

We all at the OMN would like to reiterate to our esteemed audiences that we remain firm, as always, in championing freedom, justice and democracy, as appropriate, for diversified society as in Ethiopia — all deliverable within the country’s existing legal and constitutional frameworks. We remain resolute in countering all sorts of historically rooted asymmetries, which still affecting peoples’ lives, putting the larger interests of Oromia and the Oromo people and also the diverse peoples in what’s today the southern Ethiopia. We will not shy away from advocating the political ideals of a democratic multinational federalist dispensation in Ethiopia, for we know that it would be the only viable means to keep together the contemporary Ethiopian state as a single polity. As the track records of our rather bumpy road drives over the last six years also attest, we would like to assure everyone that we continue to navigate the storms our own way, while upholding all the laws of the land in which we operate. We call upon all our audiences everywhere in the world to stand by our side and support us towards this end. We also call upon the Ethiopian government not to work to shrink the space of the free media — for doing that won’t benefit anyone at this point in time. We call upon the government to scale up the positive gains that the country made with this regard. We remain resolute in reminding the government that trying to crackdown on the OMN and other independent media outlets which managed to establish themselves in the hearts and minds of the people on the ground will only badly backfire, because that’s essentially a self-defeating move as has repeatedly been proven in history. We at the OMN would also like to remind some media outlets in Ethiopia that calling a government to crackdown on other media outlets in the country is a suicidal act, at the very least. We call upon such media houses to come to their tranquilized senses and avoid such subservient act of commuting a subtle suicide.

The management of OMN would like to end these statements by extending our heartfelt appreciations for all the media managers, owners and journalists who came out standing in solidarity with the OMN during these testing times, and also in standing firm, against all odds, for the development of the free and independent media environment in this country.

OMN Management
March 2020
Finfinne, Oromia, Ethiopia

Ethiopian Intelligence Network: Who is behind the growth? #Africa February 14, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Ethiopia & World Press Index 2014, Facebook and Africa, The Ethiopian government’s systematic repression of independent media.
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Ethiopian Intelligence Network: Who is behind the growth?

14 February 2015 ( New Delhi Times Bureau) Ethiopia is a low income country with a population of just under 92 million people. The country has since 1991 been under one party rule of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Dissidents who use the internet to criticise the one party rule have been accused of promoting terrorism and have been subjected to strict surveillance. According to Human Rights Watch, the increasing technological ability of Ethiopians to communicate, express their views, and organise, is viewed less as a social benefit and more as a political threat for the ruling party, which depends upon invasive monitoring and surveillance to maintain control of its population. Ethiopia regularly blocks websites, undertakes surveillance of websites and social media, and charges journalists over content published offline and online.
The country’s laws provide for legal sanctions against individuals for content they publish online, or the ‘illegal use’ of telecoms services. Such charges have often been framed as ‘promoting terrorism’, which can attract a 20 year jail term. Thus, the country has been creating a speedily expanding, state-of-the-art surveillance state, with tacit Western back up.
Rumors of the extent of Ethiopia’s digital surveillance and censorship state have echoed around the information security community for years. Journalists have spoken of being shown text messages, printouts of emails, and recordings of their own telephone conversations by the Ethiopian security services. From within the country, commentators connected growing telecommunications surveillance to the increasing presence of East telecommunications company ZTE.
On the external front, analysis of the targeted surveillance of exiled Ethiopians has turned up surveillance software built and sold by Western companies, such as FinFisher and Hacking Team. Observers of the country’s national Internet censorship have reported keyword filtering of websites and blocking of Tor nodes that reveal a sophisticated national firewall conducting deep packet inspection. Ethiopia’s position as an American ally also gives it the opportunity to purchase technology made in the West to carry out its campaigns of censorship and surveillance. Ethiopia has also bolstered its surveillance capabilities with drones built by Israeli company Bluebird Systems.
However, it is widely believed that Ethiopians have not developed the surveillance network using the available resources in the country. Indeed it is even futile to think that a third world country like it, which does not have enough resources to feed its poverty stricken population will invest heavily in surveillance technology.
There are many who believe that West is funding such programs. However, on a more detailed look, it looks as if East technology is behind the program.
Screenshots of extra fields on ZTE’s ZSmart customer relations management tool appear to show that Ethiopia’s telco administrators can check customers against a “blacklist,” and digitally record calls with the press of a single button.
These features could simply be a result of Ethiopia’s censorship team quickly adopting new techniques — or it could mean that Ethiopia is one of the few countries that benefits from the direct export of Great Firewall technology. In the case of Ethiopia, there have been reports that East is training the surveillance team for as period of six months and then using it for own proxy intelligence. Whether or not the activities of such companies represent cybersecurity concerns – these rapid changes in Africa’s media and telecommunications sphere are an overlooked and illustrative example of the impacts and influences of a rising East, which warrant greater study and attention from policymakers and civil society in Africa and elsewhere, in particular those who are keen to ensure both increased cooperation and connectivity and free and secure communications among citizens.

http://www.newdelhitimes.com/ethiopian-intelligence-network-who-is-behind-the-growth123/