Regardless of the bombastic speeches and the feverish media launching campaigns over the last few months, the two Oromo media groups launched recently are fraught with fundamental problems and contradictions from the start. The fact that they are two itself speaks volumes to why they are two: the founders and other members could not get along on basic issues to create one robust media network of national significance, color-blinded to cherry-picking board members and executive committee members undemocratically.
Observers and insiders say that the leadership of the two media groups are the “YES MEN/WOMEN” of single individuals maneuvering behind the scene and forcing qualified people to resign and deleting some outspoken and critical members from conference calls, email listservs, close-friends’ meetings and so on. The process is completely scandalous and laughable for people purportedly engaged in the liberation of Oromia. Add to the mix of the controversy many embarrassing on-air errors, which could have been prevented if there were proper labor division between “journalists” and technicians. Parts of the broadcast sounded like police officers talking on walkie talkies or the so-called reporters were completely camera-shy and unable to project their voices on air.
In short, the founding process as well as the recruiting process lacked transparency and accountability to the public. Accountability to the public means the pubic will be empowered to participate in the elections of the leaders of such media groups. But, the public was made to participate only in clapping, copycat standing ovations, and donating its hard-earned currency.
If they have nothing to hide, they can go ahead and do these now too. If they have a lot to hide, the secrecy shall continue and these groups will become mouthpieces of few individuals and their cronies who will become journalists, guests (interviewees) and leaders of the groups at the same time.
These media groups call themselves, “public service broadcasters” and openly solicit donations and membership fees from the general Oromo public who have no idea under whose name these groups are registered legally. Fundamentally they are private companies of Mr X and Y operating under the guise of “public media.” The trustees of a public media are supposed to be elected from the public at a general assembly of such a public, yet this process was not seen in action. What we saw was some relatively unknown individuals showing up on the list of founding members or board members. Professionals who contributed/wrote journalistic principles were excluded and sidelined from both groups (OMN and MWMF).
The power struggles between individuals in Madda Walaabuu Media Foundation (MWMF) andOromia Media Network (OMN) are often said to be based on differences in political philosophy, but in reality egocentric divisions resulted in the establishment of two media organizations that beg money from the same members of the public ad nauseam.
At one point, MWMF called a meeting and invited people from OMN. Two big-shot OMN participants at the meeting walked out of the meeting after bitter disagreements. Then later, a rift occurred in the leadership of OMN due to the secrecy with which something meant for public was being mishandled.
The rift resulted in the pre-launch firing of several talented individuals who have solid credentials in journalism and media. The power struggles have continued via social media posts on Facebook.
The leaderships of the two media groups are intimidated by individuals who are qualified to do the job of professional journalism and communications. They were not looking for talents or skills, but for “Yes Persons” who would fall in line and be part of the personality cult that surrounds both these media initiatives. What the public sees are the hypes on the stage, not behind-the- scene power struggles and egocentric desires to dominate and be seen as the single most important person for founding a media group.
Some would make excuses for these major divisions by citing “survival of the fittest” principles. “Oh let’s watch them and let people follow the winner.” Such excuses are weaknesses blinding people from seeing that people are not able to work together even on relatively small projects such as setting up one media network with branches everywhere.
It is constructive that the two media have already put out some news and opinion content for the public, but in terms of the quality of content the public is left with substandard content that place emphasis on regionally irrelevant international reports and deaths and flights of OPDO figures. Fair and balanced doesn’t mean not doing research, not interviewing Oromians on the ground. If you want a content based only on translation, VOA Afan Oromo would have sufficed. There is a need for doing real reporting, creativity, boldness and putting skills at work.
There is a need for learning the value of cooperation as opposed to narcissism, radical individualism and seeking credit to oneself all the time.
Part of the shoddy content we see is because these media groups are run by untrained citizen journalists hand-picked based on loyalty to Mr X and Y, not qualification. This is not to say that there are not few talented and passionate individuals in the media groups–there are. Big confidence must be supplemented by skills gained through training and experience.
The era of sweeping important things under the rug is long gone. The public needs to know the facts moving forward. The public needs transparency and accountability in order to continue giving its money. Oh by the way, transparency and accountability are a hallmark of democracy.