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CAPITAL marks the beginning of its various events that will be organized in celebration of its 15th Anniversary by a debate and seminar session organized in partnership with the Addis Ababa University School of Journalism and Communication (SJC).
The event attended by over 200 guests including government officials, ambassadors, other members of the diplomatic corps, media owners/practitioners, and members of the AAU and students was held at the Eshetu Chole Hall in the premises of the College of Business and Economics (CBE).
“At CAPITAL as Ethiopia’s oldest English language business newspaper, we believe that more has to be done to develop discourse with future potential journalists, and by facilitating it, the industry can develop further. Discussion about the realities and prospects of journalism can help develop a deeper passion for the industry and foster an increase in the foundational element of journalism, which is investigative curiosity,” said Teguest Yilma, D/Editor in Chief of Capital.
“This debate and seminar is to explore the prospects and potentials of journalism in Ethiopia, as we believe that it would most benefit those who are currently studying to be future journalists,” she said in her opening speech.
As journalism is more or less an autonomous field of study across the globe, the education and training of journalists has remained a subject much debated globally. CAPITAL’s first event aimed at raising some of the salient issues when studying the structure and culture of a journalism education program, to identify the key debates facing programs when structuring, rethinking, and building institutions, schools, or departments of journalism where a combination of practical and contextual training is the prime focus.
Before the debate, casting of vote was conducted and 80 percent of the attendants were in favour of the relevance of education for the profession. The debate was conducted under the title “Is education in Journalism crucial for a successful career in the profession?”
The two sides that consisted of six students, where two undergraduate students and a graduate student included in a group tried to make their case for 30 minutes each raising various issues with regards to the relevance of education in the profession of journalism. Emrakeb Assefa, Lecturer, School of Journalism and Communication, AAU moderated the forum.
The students Teklehaimanot Mamo, Enkutatash Haile and Ruth Girma who are in favour of education necessity for the profession said that education help students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as allows them to capture strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving proficiency, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings. “Without education it is impossible to practice journalism, as is medicine or law,” the students argued. “And if it is not necessary, why then are we spending all these years at the university?” they asked warning that the damage that untrained persons playing the role of a journalist could make will be devastating.
While the other side that consists of Desalew Getnet, Simon Estifanos and Samrawit Tibebu emphasized that anyone who’s passionate about journalism can learn the 5 Ws in a couple weeks. “And if they learn from their mistakes, they can get good at telling you what’s really going on,” argued the group. They noted that the most important traits of a journalist cannot be learned in a school environment. “You are not trained to have a passion, dedication, truthfulness, being the voice of the disfavored and putting the interest of those in need above our interest.”
After the two sides made their case participants of the event raised different questions. One participant said “I didn’t go to any journalism school. Instead, I stumbled into the field in my 30s, after a few years as a freelance writer. Along the way, I learned that powerful journalism springs from questioning and probing; skills I was taught as an Arts Major. If I wanted a memorable article, I had to do more than get quotes. I had to challenge assertions, perceptions and assumptions – including my own! Am I not a journalist then?” he asked.
The crowd was enlightened by the question and answer of the two teams and when votes were cast again, to the surprise of the attendants those who were against education managed to attract more vote. This attested to the strength of the debaters and their capacity to raise and debate issues of significance.
Participants said that the debate held between journalism students of SJC demonstrated the need for such forums for discussion. The participants also said that the debate was outstanding and entertaining, a great experience that should be replicated.
The debate which was mainly organized to initiate discussions within a new generation of journalists has provided a valuable forum for the exchange of excellent ideas and information.
The seminar, the second event of the day, aimed at exploring the prospects and potentials of journalism in Ethiopia and the region. Four panelists representing academia and the media presented papers on “Media Development and Sustainability Issues: Local and Regional Perspective.”
The speakers, Abdissa Zerai (PhD), Head of the School of Journalism and Communication (JSC), Amare Aregawi, General Manager of the Reporter Newspaper, Teguest Yilma, Deputy-Editor-in-Chief of Capital and Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, Managing online Editor and founder of Ghana Business News gave insight to the participants on the development of the media, employment in journalism, regional outlooks and sustainability issues facing the media sector as well as the advantages and disadvantages of print media and digital media in the world in general, and Ethiopia in particular.
The seminar moderated by Emrakeb Assefa, addressed issues such as the vision of journalism, work environment and what the reality is from the perspective of those who are currently working in the field, to allow students [would -be- journalists] to have a better grasp of what is currently going on in the industry.
The first speaker Abdissa Zerai (PhD) explained that stakeholders in the media industry always face tough competition and sometimes opposite objectives while providing the public with accurate and relevant information.
He said that media houses also face some problems while truly serving the public and operating a sustainable business, which requires creating the right balance. He also applauded the effort and initiative taken by Capital to acquaint journalism students with the media sector by preparing this event and recommended that this trend of working together with academia should continue and focus on the areas of improving the curricula, undertaking researches, creating public forums, opening rooms for internships, etc.
The second speaker, Amare Aregawi, who started his presentation by applauding Article 29 of the FDRE Constitution, noted that “The constitution asserts, not only the right to freedom of expression, but also a protection by the government if something goes wrong.”
Amare who continued with the reality of printing problems in the country said “printing cost in Ethiopia is twice that of other African countries in the region,” and explained that to print a single newspaper costs up to 30 birr while it is sold only for 10 birr in the streets. “The paradox” he continued to explain, “is that the more the circulation of a newspaper, the higher the publishers will have to pay to print.
Added to the low quality of printing, he said it made things very difficult all around. He also raised various issues that affected the flourishing of media in the country, but explained that the problems stemmed not only from the government’s side but also from the stakeholders themselves. His overall message revolved around the concept of working together with the government to resolve outstanding issues.
The third panelist, Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, Managing online Editor and founder of the Ghana Business News from Ghana, described in his presentation the history and development of journalism in Africa classifying it as: the pre-colonial period; journalism in the colonial era; 19th century journalism in Africa; and journalism of the 80s and 90s in Ghana giving the audience a regional perspective.
He also compared Ghana and Ethiopia saying that “The Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders in 2013 rank Ghana 30th in the world and third in Africa after Namibia and Cape Verde. Ethiopia is ranked 137 in the world and 42nd in Africa; and you have to work hard to change this.”
“Even though in Ghana Article 12 of the 1992 Constitution guarantees the freedom and independence of the media, while the media is free, it is not independent. Media ownership, depend on advertising revenue, influence peddlers and political influence and manipulation exist,” he added.
He further said that Ghana didn’t reach the stage it has now in regards to press freedom by sitting on its laurels, but journalists had to lawfully fight and face a lot of challenges to acquire and enjoy the rights they have now. He stated that the two countries were sisters and fellow journalists in Ghana are always ready to share their experiences with Ethiopian journalists for the development of the media sector in the country. He also raised other relevant issues like the kind of sacrifices that need to be made for sustainability and development and stated that the challenges of journalism, including the ones from the government are also common in all parts of the world, but the media itself and the public should struggle to make them history.
The last speaker of the panelist, Teguest Yilma shared her concerns on challenges facing the media, discussing the proliferation of the relatively new online media and the effects it will have on the survival of print media.
“Printing numbers, by and large, have been showing a downward trend. Readers habits are undeniably changing towards online,” she said about the general world trend.
However, “with 85 million people, Ethiopia has about 22,000 Twitter accounts, many of which are inactive. This means that even on a good day, Ethiopia’s Twitter population is less than the AAU community,” she added saying that social networking statistics show that Facebook penetration in Ethiopia is only 1.07% compared to the country’s population. The total number of Monthly Active Facebook Users (MAU) in Ethiopia is however approximately 940,520 and grew by more than 118,780 in the last 6 months. In the beginning of 2012 this number was only 246,000, she described.
Teguest said “At Capital, as with most other newspapers in the country, the newsroom is not integrated. Its digital operation remains distant from the traditional newsroom. Social media at Capital is only limited to sharing links to the paper’s online stories over Facebook and Twitter and, where applicable, on YouTube,” adding “Ethiopian newspapers are aware of the long-term potential, but have not implemented social media in a major way”
All in all, participants expressed a lot of satisfaction in the proceedings and the event was deemed a huge success, thanks in no small part to Emrakeb Assefa, lecturer at SJC, who diligently worked in coordination with Capital to make the event a reality.
The seminar was concluded by a question and answer session from the audience and the panelists emphasizing the need for further deliberations of such kind of events.
The Royal Norwegian Embassy, Ethiopian Airlines and Jupiter International Hotel supported part of the cost of this event.