Why Addis Neger? Why now? – Tefera Yohannes
I have followed Addis Neger for two years. I have read most of the serious political articles in those two years especially the feature articles, political memo, Mesfin’s articles. Most of these articles raise important issues and shed lights. Following those articles people open discussions on those topics. The articles on Addis Neger were taken seriously by its readers and the readers are not ordinary people, most of the newspaper ‘audience were the youth and the educated and it was also read by the older age group even in this case it was frequented by the educated (the only notable exception we know of is the PM who admitted to not to read the weekly).
It was also growing in popularity with its readers increasing. Its readers used to simply pick the paper and pay for it without even seeing the content unlike for the other papers. I did the same every Saturday, there was no a single week I failed to buy Addis Neger except when the paper vendors run out of copies because I went out of my home in the evening on two occasions.
It has quickly become an opinion leader and it was the only local newspaper I know which has fans online on facebook. It was a different category of newspaper in a sense that it was balanced and somehow based on research. It is a kind of paper one can take as a reliable source of information. It never dwelt on petty issues. It mostly dealt with deeper issues and on the reasons why EPDRF does what it does.
I will look closer to find out why EPDRF was fearful of the newspaper. I’ll mention few key words and try to spin the reason why the paper was brought under intense scrutiny and pressure from the incumbent. The key points are these: Its popularity, its being taken seriously by the youth, the issues they raise, their perceived soft corner for MEDREK, the youths and elites affinity to the paper, the feared interconnection between Seye Abreha and Birtukan as suggested on Abiy T/Mariams recent article on the internet with the tittle “ Why they locked Birtukan in jail?” Does it look complicated? Don’t worry I will give a dummy’s guide as to how these are all interconnected, interwoven and why they send jitters and make life for EPDRF somehow difficult? Remember and also try to read lips when the PM said, “We will not repeat the mistakes of the 2005 elections.” Don’t have any qualms about the fact that he means it. I hope you know best.
Lets now synthesize a reason as to why Addis Neger and why now of the Addis Neger saga.
On being the voice of the youth
Many educated youth read the paper and these youth are influential and the fact that this weekly prints only 25,000 copies or so doesn’t matter as it is read by far more people through lending out, passing it over to family members and friends who can not afford a copy. More than that, many people get information and form their opinions not through reading in this country but by word of mouth through their circle of influence. You can think of how many people all those trusted educated youth can influence within their circle of influence. Taking all these into consideration, the paper has far more influence on the people than the government electronic media because of its low bank account of trust worthiness.
On the issues they raise
They raise very important issues, for instance, on the economy, on EPDRF’s ideology such as why they hate icons and destroy them, the fact that EPRDF wants to create hegemony of revolutionary democracy, the recent article on the use of art (esp music and dramas) for supporting its ideology and many others shed light on the philosophy of the incumbent. As these issues become known, seen for what they really are, will lose their potencies. It could be evident that EPDRF could be apprehensive as we approach elections and if Addis Neger continues unbridled. Therefore, the nudging on the weekly revealed by the editors upon leaving the country had to be implemented by the incumbent.
Their perceived soft corner for MEDREK
Even if Addis Neger is not outright supporters of MEDREK, they were their sympathizers, despite their unforgiving criticism on MEDREK, they supported their ideology and this could have been rightly/wrongly assumed that they will sway many educated youth and their circle of influence to MEDREK. Even if MEDREK is denied of public media, Addis Neger would serve as a medium of communication. It was recently revealed by researchers that the media though a toddler is far more influential than politicians themselves. And among all the media until it was closed, Addis Neger was unrivalled.
The hypothesis why they jailed Birtukan
If we were to believe Abiy T/Mariam’s hypothesis on why they jailed Birtukan, it now becomes the issue of “if A=B,B=C then A=C” logic. According to Birtukan, the future belongs to the youth and undoubtedly she has a lot of clout among the youth of all hue in the country.
The newspaper editors and the view of the paper, ideology or lack of it of the editors, their ages, the age group they appeal to are all starkly similar to Birtukan’s world view of the country. Ato Seye Abraha who fell out from the ruling party quarter might have been perceived to entice both Birtukan and Addis Neger. Considering Addis Negers seeming approval of Medrek’s minimal program and the fact that Ato Seye uses Addis Neger more frequently than any other politicians to voice his views could have sent jitters to the incumbent camp.
The above synopsis shows some of the reasons why the incumbent might have gone after the paper’s thoat. Considering the fact that they don’t want to see anything approaching Kinijit’s performance or as they say, similar mistakes of 2005, the pressure on the paper might be a logical approach. If they remotely perceived the paper to be a problem in the coming election, and it looks obvious from the previous discussion that they have enough reasons to fear, they will not refrain from using administrative, judiciary or other means to pre-empt what they apprehend will happen. This thesis of EPDRF’s dealing with what it identifies as obstacles to its hegemony was dealt with by Addis Neger in one of its features.
But Why now?
The simplest answer is “It is the 2010 elections, stupid.” With the ensuing elections it is increasingly difficult for EPDRF to be doubly sure what the future holds. Any rising political party resembling Kinijit backed by a popular paper will be a major problem to its sure bet on the elections. It’d be better to stop any such notion than try to extinguish the fire afterwards. We will not make the mistakes of 2005 elections, is the guiding principle for 2010, and when it is uttered by the head of the party, it will be implemented to the letter. All that the implementers have to do to know how to do it is to read “how to “of the party’s manual analyzed in Addis Neger few months back.