Pankhurst’s Passing and the Media in Ethiopia

The recent passing of Professor Richard Pankhurst has been the news around all media stations in Ethiopia. A man that has contributed to the history of the country was talked about by radio and TV stations.

The passing of Professor Richard Pankhurst reminds me of my decades-long acquaintanceship with the historian. I was his student and I have studied and used his book “The Economic History of Ethiopia 1800-1935,” a professional research work that has not only made me realize that Ethiopia was and is an independent country with ports like Adulis by the shores of the Red Sea and that the country had has a mighty military force to be reckoned with.

I was born and raised in a compound near the parliament building bordering the Holy Trinity Cathedral where Sylvia Pankhurst, the mother of Professor Richard Pankhurst, was laid to rest. She was herself a historic figure in Ethiopia and was known for writing about Ethiopia when the rest of the world had turned its face away from the country after it was illegally occupied by Fascist Italy some 80 years ago.

Professor Pankhurst had dedicated over 50 years of his life doing research work and publishing them. He was a teacher and author of more than 25 books and hundreds of articles. Pankhurst founded the Institute of Ethiopia Studies at Addis Ababa University. He left Ethiopia in 1976 and joined the London School of Economics as a research fellow, before returning to Ethiopia in 1987.

Pankhurst was known for his efforts to bring back relics ransacked by the Italian occupiers and the British army. He lobbied tirelessly to recuperate the Axum obelisk which was stolen by the army of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1937 and was eventually returned to Ethiopia in 2005.

He was also influential in the return of an ancient prayer book that was in the hands of an American collector. Pankhurst founded the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University. He had given his son the name Alula in memory of the gallant fighter Ras Allula Aba Nega.

As I am doing my dialysis at the St. Luc Hospital in Brussels, I watch TV stations like CNN, BBC, and of course Ethiopian media. All the media in Ethiopia seem to be covering the passing of Pankhurst.

Every hour or so new events take place and my mind harkens back and forth following the breaking news which are almost the same despite the modality. Printed materials are also available at the hospital so I sometimes read the papers as well.

When I get back home from the dialysis, I have a computer which I turn on and watch with eyes glued to the screen to tune into stations like EBC which I watch often. I also listen to radio stations such as FM94.3, FM97.1, 98 and 102.1. Some of the radio stations, unfortunately, suffer technical problems and disappear from the air. But Sheger Radio station seems to be the one with the most listeners and popularity at the moment.

But I have made some observations about the media outlets I have been listening to, a sort of analysis. And I hope to see an improvement on the performance of the presenters. One sports news presenter stood out to me on EBC. Not only does it seem as though he is rapping his words but it is hard to hear him because of his low intonation. His lady counterpart is much more distinct and intoned.

The regrettable issue is the “Business” aspect of the reporting that goes on in the radio stations. Telling listeners about the currency rate of exchanges, prices of fuel, and prices of coffee and gold that have little or nothing to do with Business Report unless we are told what it means in terms of prices of purchasing powers, if there is a rise and fall or in terms of the local rate of inflations or deflations. Or how much reserve Ethiopia has and how long it might last.

The reports should not leave listeners with more questions, but it should explain the topic well. Citing an incomplete report and giving it the name “Business Report” may be the same as calling an orange an apple. I could even go further and say it is like barking at the wrong tree.

On the another side of the token, there are Yeneneh Sisay and Yeneheh Kebede who are clearly heard and doing a great job at presenting. I really like listening to Yeneneh Kebede for articulations and using idiomatic presentations particularly in his own voice like well-known Darius Moddi. Meaza Biru’s “Chewata” program on Sheger with Abdu Ali is superb, to say the least.

I am glad that I can keep up with all the events that are going on through the media, which keeps me updated. I was sad to hear about Professor Pankhurst, but I found comfort in hearing the coverage of the news on Ethiopian media stations.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Feb 25,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 877]



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