Mass media is communication and that communication can take on many forms across various mediums from writing to broadcasting. Through media, large swathes of people can get information that would hitherto be unavailable to them and this is what makes Aigaforum a necessity for many Ethiopians.
Like many African countries, Ethiopia has had its share of tenuous political climates, high rates of corruption and even culturally motivated violence. These commonplace problems take an even larger dimension in Ethiopia considering the fact that it is Africa’s oldest independent country and Africa’s second largest country in terms of population.
During the colonial period, the country had served as a symbol of African independence and became a founder member of the United Nations and the African base for many international organizations.
With such a vital history, it is not surprising that a lot is often expected from Ethiopia but that history also includes a long civil conflict in the 20th Century that arose when the country suffered periodic droughts and famines. There was also the border war with Eritrea during the period of 1999-2000.
In recent times, land has become the front and center of Ethiopia’s struggles. For instance, at the beginning of the year, a series of protests broke out in Ethiopia that led to the death of hundreds of Ethiopians. The protests had been a reaction to the Ethiopia’s government’s plan to allocate farmland in the region which surrounds the capital Addis Ababa for development.
The demonstrations had caused the government to backtrack on the plan but opposition demonstrators continued to protest what was seen as an unfair distribution of power in Ethiopia’s government.
The government and military in Ethiopia is dominated by the Tigrayan ethnic group, who make up only about 6 percent of the population.
Where does Aigaforum come in?
For most people in Ethiopia, radio is still the medium of choice for getting information as it manages to reach rural areas where most Ethiopians live. The government still controls most of the broadcasting outlets, including the sole national TV network.
An increased proliferation of privately-owned newspapers has given rise to differing views that include critiques of the government, a rare occurrence in the past when state-owned newspapers had the run of the town.
The mobile smartphone revolution in Africa and the increasing internet penetration on the continent has, however, provided yet another means of disseminating information and this is where Aigaforum comes in.
Aigaforum is an online Ethiopian forum for news and views that promotes Ethiopia’s unity in diversity. It touts itself as a public forum which does not cater to audiences for commercial reasons. In one article to source for public perceptions of their work, they write;
“The country is changing and moving forward. People are demanding more development and more accountability from their respected government officials. Realizing this we thought Aigaforum can serve the public if we become the bouncing forum of ideas and views that reflect the current realities.”
Is Aigaforum providing Ethiopia’s people a voice or just sharing TPLF propaganda?
Aigaforum continues to insist on a focus on promoting unity in Ethiopia but some people have accused it of being the mouthpiece of the TPLF minority regime.
The TPLF is the ruling regime in Ethiopia and has been so for over 25 years. Lately, worsening economic, political and social problems have turned average Ethiopians against the regime.
Propaganda involves the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person. If Aigaforum is indeed on the side of Ethiopians, it will eschew uneven reporting of events in Ethiopia which is already a commonplace practice for state-owned newspapers in the country.
The forum will be expected to be fair in its reports of any happening in Ethiopia without favoring one political party or group above another. There have been complaints that Aigaforum is never critical of the TPLF and continually praises the government, an oddity when so many average Ethiopians are complaining about the current state of the nation.
No matter the level of truth in those accusations, Aigaforum is a vital resource in these times when Ethiopians need to be informed of happenings around them to take critical decisions that will determine where Ethiopia will go next.