September 27, 2008 (ADDIS ABABA) — The state owned Ethiopian radio and TV agency (ERTA) reduced drastically earlier this month the majority of airtime of the Affaan Oromo TV program. The decision left some 60 Oromo journalist jobless and raised anger.
The Tigriga and the Afaan Oromo TV programs, which were run through the federal TV on a separate desk within the only national TV station, were made their airtimes shrunken on September 12 and transferred to the hands of regional states under a new agendum called “localizing” TV programs that allows regional governments to take control of the medias.
Two Oromo opposition groups told Sudan Tribune by telephone from Addis Ababa that the move is politically motivated and violates the ruling party’s, self own constitution and to the international treaties it has ratified too.
“This is a political motivated action of the ruling party which targets to put the Oromo people’s national political role out of the game by weakening their role from every angle by such undemocratic acts” Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement(OFDM) Chairman and parliament member, Bulcha Demeksa told Sudan Tribune.
“We are talking about the liberty of a language of more than 40 million people” Bulcha said. “This once again reveals the at most hatred and contempt the regime has for the Oromo people and their language Afan Oromo” he added.
The Oromo oppositions believes that the regular Oromiga programme was deliberately replaced by a local program known as STVO, which completely prepared by OPDO — one wing of the ruling coalition — cadres and used by the regime to broadcast propagandas of Meles-led government.
The Oromo People’s Congress (OPC) echoes the action as discriminatory and as having political agenda.
“The ruling party of Ethiopia has taken the Afaan Oromoo TV programme off the air without any consultation or prior notice” OPC chairman and MP Merrara Gudina said.
“The Oromo people were not given a chance for self-consultation ahead of practicing the so-called ‘localizing’ policy” he underscored.
“The ruling party fears that offering the huge Oromo people a wide and strong voices to the public will heighten political consciousness” Merrara said. He added that “the move as it, is clear like a crystal is aimed to paralyze the propagandas of the Oromo people by silencing them from every possible doors.”
The opposition groups said shrinking little of the Tigriga programme is to pretend that the measure doesn’t target only to the Oromos.
The Afaan Oromoo TV programme was launched in 1991 following the toppling of the Communist Derg regime as a part of the package of the then newly introduced democracy and freedom of expression.
As a result of the pressure from the Oromo people in general and the OLF in particular, the regime opened a one hour TV program for Afan Oromo as a gesture of attempting to restore freedom and justice for the suppressed Oromo nation.
Although this was seen as one positive step forward when compared to the previous Ethiopian regimes, it was clear for the Oromo people that this was no justice yet since the same amount of air time was given to the Tigriga language which is spoken by less than 7% of the population of the empire simply because the current rulers come from Tigray region.
A real justice for the Oromo people is to give the maximum air time for Afan Oromo, radio or TV, than any other language.Oromo oppositions strongly argue.
The fate of the former 60 employees of the Afan Oromo desk, who were said to have been laid off and have been holding demonstrations in protest at the action, is not known. Most of them have been placed under surveillance and their movements have been restricted within the Capital.
Opposing to the unjust decision the journalists, now off duty, have appealed to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s office, to the Ethiopian Parliament, to the OPDO office and to the so called Oromian president for the reversal of the decision.
Afan Oromo, is spoken by over 40% of the entire population of the nation. The Oromiya region is believed to house about 80 or so different languages.