Open letter to Ludger Schadomsky By Abebe Gellaw
I read your open letter to Ethiomedia with a great deal of interest. I appreciate some of the points you have made referring to the nature and conduct of the regime in Ethiopia that has severely curtailed freedom of expression in contravention of the letters of its own constitution and international conventions.
That said, you told us that you were disillusioned, dumfounded, flabbergasted, outraged and suffered harassment and mudslinging just because legitimate concerns have been on the way you manage Deutsche Welle (DW) Amharic. Your letter, splashed with unnecessary adjectives, gives the impression that you are beyond reproach and people who have credible allegations were only interested in defaming you and DW.
I do not personally believe that DW has been a mouthpiece of the current “government” of Ethiopia. As someone who has grown up listening to DW and VOA Amharic services, I have never known these broadcasts to serve as a propaganda output for Ethiopia’s oppressive regimes, during the time of the military junta as well as the current repressive regime. But that does not mean that DW is immune from pressure by the Meles regime that is obsessively campaigning to shut down any critical views. Whether DW budges to the pressures or not as an institution is another matter, but the declining quality and the dwindling coverage on Ethiopia is quite evident.
As I do not know anyone who has alleged that DW is a mouthpiece of the Meles regime, I prefer not to dwell on this matter as much as you did. I am sure this is a side issue that might be selected to sidetrack us from the major concerns being raised. But I can point out the fact that DW is not an independent media outlet set up to serve the interests of the Ethiopian people. Far from it, its primary objective, as clearly stated in its statutory mission, is rather to “promote understanding of Germany as an independent nation with its roots in European culture and as a liberal, democratic, constitutional state based on the rule of law.”
While you tried to assert that DW Amharic is an independent media outlet serving the people of Ethiopia for half a century, you have also availed yourself of the opportunity to make a few misleading insinuations. I was surprised to see that you mixed facts with fiction and resorted to conspiracy theory rather than dealing with the allegations made against you as the director and editor-in-chief of DW Amharic service.
You stated: “There is, of course, another possible explanation: that the wool is being pulled over our eyes by a group of media wits who are busy promoting their own business agenda under the guise of investigative journalism. Can I really be the only one to find it strange that the publication of a series of mud-slinging articles about Voice of America (VoA) and Deutsche Welle (DW), timed to appear almost simultaneously, was driven by an executive of an ambitious media company currently eyeing the Ethiopian radio market?” Yes, I am sure you are the only one to see through this grand conspiracy.
As you have failed to name this unruly media wits that pull over wool over your eyes, the “media executive” and the company eying for the Ethiopian radio market, I cannot defend these unnamed individuals and media company that wants to bankrupt competitors. In all honesty, these colorful descriptions appear to come out more from the figment of your imagination than the reality that you and me know quite well.
The serious allegations made against you had nothing to do with your fanciful conspiracy theory. Without repeating the case that has been widely reported, let me remind you a story that you might have forgotten. There was this young journalist who came all the way to Germany as an intern at DW, who was later retained as to work under you. This journalist only found a situation that was worse than the predicament that Ethiopian maids have to face in the Middle East. His hope turned into despair. I still have the many emails you have exchanged with him. You never heeded his poignant appeals and appeared to care little to the ordeals he was facing in the middle of Bonn. This is a fact you chose not to address in your open letter.
The journalist is called Mesay Mekonnen, currently manager of ESAT radio. I am very proud of this colleague of mine as he has proved himself to be a competent broadcaster. Mesay does not need a translator to do his job. He knows what he does. The media executive who let down this fellow Ethiopian is called Ludger Shadomsky, currently editor-in-chief of DW Amharic service but who never speaks the Amharic broadcasts he is assigned to “edit” and manage. This was the truth that I reported based on hard to refute facts.
Before I wrote the story that has clearly upset you, I contacted you on at least six occasions by phone and email. I can publish the details of our discussions, if you wish. On one occasion, you even hang up on me when I asked you to answer a few questions based on the allegations leveled against you and the evidence that I had gathered. I do not understand how this is linked to the Ethiopian “radio market”. VOA has at least tried to address the issues raised. The assurances that Mr. Steve Redisch, the then acting director, gave was a much better approach than taking a long time off to concoct wild conspiracy theories.
As far as DW Amharic is concerned, it is no longer my kind of broadcaster that I crave to listen to daily. While I acknowledge the fact that it has a great deal of resources at its disposal, its broadcasting quality is steadily declining and the coverage on Ethiopia is dwindling. I believe this is a reality that anyone can easily check.
Let me point out a glaring contradiction in what you teach and practice. In your open letter, you claimed: “I would like to go on record as saying that we at DW Amharic neither bow to pressure from the government of Ethiopia, nor give in to the increasingly outrageous demands made by radicalized opposition figures and organizations.”
This flies in the face of an email you circulated to DW Amharic staffers last year. “You will be well aware of the close monitoring of the Ethiopian government of any activities by our staff members perceived to be ‘opposition activities’. I have a number of names thrown at me by Berekt Simon every time I am in Addis. To spell it out very clearly: Ethiomedia – and similar sites by extension – is NOT a site where I want to see our correspondents displayed with opinion articles! The amount of hatred splashed across that particular medium is a disgrace to any politically sober mind.” You had insisted that there were no outside influence on you and DW. But Bereket Simon was in your mind when you issued such an amazing decree that undermines freedom of expression that you were supposed to espouse and defend.
If writing opinion pieces for Ethiomedia and other similar sites is a cardinal sin, why then have you chosen this time to publish your patronizing view on the very media you have declared to be untouchable? Isn’t that a case of double standard?
You have also gone to the extent of telling us that referring to the regime in Ethiopia as “the fascist Weyane regime” is a horrible hate speech. People hate tyranny in every shape and form. Ethiopians can call their government whatever they think is appropriate. They know better whether the people ruling them are fascistic or humanistic. No judgment please, Mr. Schadomsky!
Finally, Ethiopians deserve to have media outlets that have no vested interests other than serving them with utmost passion and integrity. As far as I know, there is no threatening competition in Ethiopia’s media landscape which is still dominated by the regime’s propaganda. I am certain that Deutsche Welle and other foreign media outlets will continue to remain relevant despite the evident internal and external pressures they face.
For the record, I firmly believe that ESAT is a media outlet that provides news and information 24/7 by Ethiopians and for Ethiopians. The time to wait for others to report our stories truthfully has already elapsed. We report what we like. ESAT is the Voice of Ethiopia. I am certain about that.
Please write again soon. I guarantee you a quick reply.