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BLURRING THE LINE BETWEEN ADVOCACY AND REPORTING

BLURRING THE LINE BETWEEN ADVOCACY AND REPORTING

Ezana Sehay 5/2/2015

When an accredited media outlet, abandons objectivity and due diligence in order to further a political agenda, it is a cautionary tale of the harm done to journalism.

Take for instance the Washington Post’s April 30th editorial – “The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of The Ethiopian Regime”, which was a censure of the apparent revised US policy toward Ethiopian domestic politics. The new policy as proclaimed by Undersecretary Wendy Sherman, and later substantiated by the state department – would stand by the Ethiopian democratic process and would sternly oppose anyone attempting to derail it. 

Frankly the Ethiopian people didn’t pay much attention to it, because as much as they appreciate the policy shift, the Ethiopian democracy is on solid footing and is more than able to defeat any charlatan. In fact, some say, what all the publicity did is raise the profile of the groups who declare war on the Ethiopian government, but for all intents and purposes are as good as dead.

Furthermore, we knew there will be those who would be (to put it mildly) displeased by the new Ethio-American understanding. But we never expected The Washington Post to be in line with them.

The paper is known for its critical stance pertaining to President Obama’s foreign policy. So, is the aforementioned editorial a perpetuation of the trend (a rebuff to Obama), or is it really aimed at the Ethiopian government?

Notwithstanding, the piece is unbecoming to the prestige of the newspaper. Indeed the accusations labeled against the Ethiopian government looks like a cut and paste from some of the reports by the issue-advocacy groups critical of the government.  That is why the piece has too many holes.

In other words, the paper failed to do its customary investigation and learn about the country’s prevailing political reality. Rather kept fishing for a story - The more the alarmist the better to fit its antecedent ideological template of Ethiopian politics.  

This is nothing short of journalistic malpractice. It looks like the folks at The Washington Post are not concerned about their professional laxity as long as they find a story that merely feeds what they are looking for.

Journalism is a big canvas that can shelter both reportage and bias opinions. But opinions (such as this editorial), generally belong in the comment section. Even then, debates must be based on evidence.

Otherwise, when journalists and (in this case) editors, use their privilege to advance their political partiality at the expense of objectivity, they are cheating the public and degrade the journalistic profession.  




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