By Tamru Ayele,
THE Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Oakland Institute (OI) and Survival International (SI) have strongly rejected and condemned Dawit Kebede’s recent claims against several global advocacy groups.
The groups said such an irresponsible and unsubstantiated allegation that has no factual basis is not expected of someone who claims to be a journalist committed to informing others.
Dawit Kebede, who was one of the four recipients of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 2010, recently appeared on the state-run ETV and accused CPJ, Oakland Institute , Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Rivers, Survival International and the International Crisis Group of being tools of imposing Western hegemony.
“These organizations are part of an overall allegiance to control the world under one single ideology,” he had asserted.
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Sue Valentine, CPJ Africa Program Coordinator,said in a statement that CPJ was very disappointed with Kebede’s unwarranted attacks.
“We were hurt and disappointed when we read articles summarizing a television interview with Dawit in which he was critical of CPJ.”
Valentine indicated that CPJ had requested Kebede to clarify his allegations, but blamed it on inaccurate translation. CPJ had the 28-minute long interview translated and verified that the former press freedom hero had indeed tried to defame the reputable defender of press freedom with allegations that are contrary to the missions of the organization. CPJ also campaigned for the release of Kebede when he was unjustly incarcerated in 2005.
“CPJ honored Dawit Kebede based on his journalistic work prior to 2010,” Valentine noted. “Based on his recent TV interview, he appeared to have changed his views. We do not know why, but he is obviously entitled to his opinion. However, CPJ strongly rejects any suggestion that we seek to impose a ‘Western hegemony’ on other countries and continents. CPJ’s sole mandate is to defend the right of all journalists to express their views and to report the news freely,” she added.
According to Valentine, CPJ’s Africa Program defends the right of all journalists working on the continent to report news and express opinions freely and independently, without pressure from governments, big businesses or any other interest groups.
Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, said on her part that making unsubstantiated allegations without substantiating them with facts is not expected of a journalist.
“My advice, despite all obstacles and human rights abuses in a repressive regime, stay true to your profession of journalism. Like the Oakland Institute, whose mission is to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues, do not take things for granted. Research objectively and independently, questioning the official discourse of both governments and NGOs, but seek the truth for yourself,” she said.
“If we were controlled by Western governments, our work would not have exposed and challenged the support of the USAID and Dfid of Ethiopia’s “development” strategy and ignoring of human rights abuse. Our work and methodology speaks for itself and we cannot take seriously every allegation made by a journalist who has now made up with a regime that abuses its own citizens. Let us not forget that, according to the CPJ, 17 journalists are still languishing in the jails while hundreds fled and now live in exile,” she added.
Mittal pointed out that unlike Kedebe’s allegations, all of OI’s reports clearly mention the methodology used and evidence provided to substantiate the allegations of human rights abuses, forced displacement that are being carried out in Ethiopia.
“This work has been carried out through extensive field work in the communities impacted, often at great risk to the researchers. We have also provided documentation such as the recordings and transcripts from investigations carried out by the donors. So this is not about our word against Mr. Kedebe’s words. This is about who has the proof,” Mittal said.
With regard to accusations that organisations like OI are attempting to impede development in Ethiopia, she said that forced displacement of communities from their lands and livelihoods cannot be justified as development.
“Ethiopia’s food security is based on food aid and other development aid while it gives away its resources to foreign investors. You don’t need a rocket scientist that this is not development, but a destructive policy in action that will make the country dependent on foreign aid, destroy local communities and their livelihoods and food security, and usher in insecurity and conflicts,” the OI chief noted.
Alice Bayer, Press Officer at Survival International, explained that Survival is an international organization with supporters in about 80 countries around the world, including Ethiopia and China, and defends the rights of tribal peoples that have developed ways of life that are largely self-sufficient and extraordinary diverse.
“Our only goal is for these ways of life to be respected. Of course, this means that we stand for many different ideologies, and tribal peoples’ right to live by them. The Ethiopian government stands guilty of imposing its aggressive ideology, on the tribes of the Omo Valley, who merely wish to be allowed to live their lives as they choose and not have ‘development’ projects violently forced upon them,” she said.
Funded by their supporters and independent funding sources, the advocacy groups never accept any funding from government agencies.
Meanwhile, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which supports democratic institutions around the world, has disclosed that it discontinued funding Awramba Times due to concerns after supporting it between 2011 to 2014.
Jane Jacobsen, NED’s Senior Director, Public Affairs said that the Endowment funded Awramba Times to produce and disseminate content that promotes good governance, transparency, rule of law, human rights and the importance of democratic institutions.
“In light of concerns that Awramba Times was not meeting the above project objectives NED discontinued its funding in January 2014.”
According to its annual report, NED’s funding beneficiaries in Ethiopia include Center for International Private Enterprise ($527,008), Debebe ($195,260) and Temesgen Law Office ($72,000), Forum for Social Studies, Peace and Development Center (?) , and Vision Ethiopian Congress for Democracy ($34,992).
The TPLF-led regime has repeatedly accused NED of funding groups and individuals bent on overthrowing the government. Ironically, Mimi Sebhatu, a vocal defender of tyranny in Ethiopia, was one of the recipients of NED’s money. In 2011 Kebede had fled Ethiopia and told CPJ that he had been targeted by pro-government media outlets and Mimi Sebhat, whom he accused of attacking him on her station, Zami FM Radio.
A few years ago, Mimi Sebhatu received $26,740 from NED while Kebede received $36,000 annually from 2011-2014, according to public records. In an ironic twist, both Mimi and Dawit are now attacking individuals and organizations, including CPJ and NED, that expose gross human rights violations in Ethiopia. They are currently funded by the TPLF-led tyrannical regime, reliable sources say.