Schadomsky’s censorship as a tacit approval of tyranny – By Tesfay Atsbeha
In my previous article – Forced Indoctrination – I made the following remark in relation to Mr. Schadomsky, editor-in-chief of Deutsche Welle Amharic Radio Program:
“It is unbelievable that some individuals even in the voice of America and the Deutsche Welle (DW) are importing the habit of stifling critical voices from Ethiopia. The DW organized a successful international conference under the title: “Human Rights in a Globalized World, challenges for the Media” (June 20-22, 2011 in Bonn) for about 1600 participants from more than 100 countries. The Director-General of Deutsche Welle, Erik Bettermann called for cooperation in forming a global “alliance for human rights”, during the closing session. In total contradiction to such efforts, an employee of the DW, Mr. Ludger Schadomsky who heads the Amharic section of the DW seems to be using a list of undisclosed names whose voice should not be heard in the DW. Thanks to the young journalist, Messay Mekonnen, this censorship in the DW was exposed. I knew this case since January 2011, but I did not speak out,. ….…….”
Now, Mr. Schadomsky in his Open Letter to Ethiomedia.com has raised the issue again. Despite the fact that I was not following up the case, I see the need for more transparency from my own personal experience. Mr. Schadomsky had told one of the experienced journalists in the DW that he had researched about me and found out that my articles were only on political and not on economic issues. Of course, he reached his conclusion without knowing in which languages, under which names and within which civic organisations I write. He therefore concluded that the invitation extended to me to participate as an economist in a panel discussion should be withdrawn. It was when the Ethio-German journalists who know me personally told him that they know that I studied political economy that Mr. Schadomsky spontaneously exposed his hidden reason for opposing my invitation by telling them that he would not invite Dr. Berhanu Nega, even if he knows that the latter is an economist. Nevertheless, this ridiculous theatre could have been avoided, if the other journalists were trusted accomplices and had a complete list of the names of the unwanted individuals.
The behaviour of the Amharic editor-in-chief in this case brings several aspects of inappropriateness to light. Here is a combination of the act of suppressing critical voices (at least that of Berhanu and mine), the act of denying experienced journalists the freedom to make even minor decisions (inviting interviewees without asking permission to do so) and humiliating them (by ordering them to withdraw the invitation), the insincerity of employing fake arguments (talking about profession instead of censorship) to hide the actual reason (the censorship), and the impoliteness of inviting a person and telling the person to keep away.
Coming back to the open letter, Mr Schadomsky is probably right in his assertion that the DW is not forced to make self-censorship; that it is not bowing to pressure from Bereket Simon. But there is also a need for clarity as to what DW Amharic section is made up. When the section was led by Schadomsky’s predecessors, the DW journalists of Ethiopian origin had the freedom to make decisions to interview a person of their choice in connection with relevant matters. However, the process of decision making has been “democratized” since Mr. Schadomsky started to lead the section. There is a participatory process of decision making which is similar to the Ethiopian parliament where the quasi Meles of the meeting is Mr. Schadomsky. In this connection, the observation made by Messay Mekonnen, who worked with the DW and who exposed the practice of routine censorship is convincing. (Messay Mekonnen in: Nightmare at the Deutsche Welle, 01 August 2011, quatero.net) Schadomsky is tantamount to DW Amharic section and therefore the word “we” which Schadomsky uses in the name of the Amharic section of the DW sounds like the “we” of the late emperor Haileselassie of Ethiopia for Ethiopians and people of Ethiopian origin. Although I never asked any person or institution to interview me, I had some interviews with the DW when the Amharic section was led by the predecessors of Mr. Schadomsky. Those who interviewed me were not required to get permission from the predecessors of Schadomsky. In fact, while I don’t personally mind avoiding interviews, the practice of censorship in the DW Amharic section has been clearly proved against me without my own efforts.
As Schadomsky’s letter conveys the message of warning against unspecified, outrageous and radical elements of the Diaspora, his view is also conducive to the exclusion of such elements by the DW, even without a pressure from the GoE. His writing makes the GoE look like a lesser evil than the unspecified radical opposition thereby tacitly making the GoE preferable and tolerable.
Which demands of the opposition is Schadomsky referring to in his article and why does he call them outrageous? Is critical media freedom in Ethiopia heavily curtailed as he claims, or blocked? It is right, that the DW is not a mouthpiece of the GoE, but it can be abused when the GoE can jam and leave it selectively and critical voices are being silenced. We don’t know what complaints the GoE raised, when Schadomsky writes about unspecified complaints; but it is logical to assume, as the concrete case of censorship shows, that at least some of the complaints must have been addressed to the satisfaction of the GoE.
As to the interview with German opposition MP Thilo Hoppe, which the Amharic editor-in-chief mentions to prove the absence of censorship, it is irrelevant, since no body claimed that the DW is silencing the voice of a German MP; and the editor knows that this cannot be tolerated in Germany. At least the participation of Ato Girma Seifu in DW discussions is positive, although Ato Girma must make self-censorship and make an additional censorship by the DW superfluous.
Finally, there is no and there should not be any moral obligation for Germans to trivialize atrocities by comparing them with the Nazi past, as the author does. In fact the opposite, that of opposing tyranny everywhere, should be the case. In this respect, the editor goes out of his way to teach Ethiopian victims not to call the Meles regime “fascist”, whereas he uses a double standard and does not comment when Ginbot 7 is called a terrorist organisation by the GoE. Further more, Mr. Schadomsky has formulated such a phrase that he appears to be agitating for the support of the GoE in such way that he; with unbelievable and unnecessary exaggeration talks of his shuddering (does he really shudder? Why should he?) at the prospect of imaginary self-proclaimed democrats replacing the present political setup in the future. Did he ever shudder at the news of the serial mass killings in 1993, 1995, 2001, in June 2005 and November 2005 in Addis and the massacre of innocent civilians in Gambella in 2003 etc..? Does he feel the overwhelming Angst of Ethiopians? Isn’t it a trivialization of such killings and the omnipresent atmosphere of terror to try to describe the system as (only!) faulty in many ways while allegedly shuddering at the thought of self-proclaimed democrats coming to power, who should be more feared before they committed any crime than those who have been committing crimes against humanity for decades?
Well, the open letter from Mr. Schadomsky has backfired; it strengthens the accusation of censorship instead of disproving it as it seems to have been intended by its author.
The writer, Tesfay Atsbeha, is a political analyst and long time critic of the Meles Zenawi regime. He is based in Cologne, Germany and can be reached for comment at email@example.com