Sparkles of hope in the midst of murkiness amongst Ethiopian online communities

Ethiopians online are trying to inspire each other for an Egyptian style revolution to shake loose of two decades of EPRDF rule , the Ethiopian online communities of micro blogging platforms such as facebook and twitter and blogging platforms such as wordpress are stumbling towards balanced argumentations and debates on the possibilities of Egyptians style revolutions on Ethiopian soil too. The early results signify vast online behavioral shifts.
Ethiopians online communities have long been dominated by ethnically divided and highly opinionated posts of arguments and debates, as it is still true in much of the Ethiopian blogospheres. Ethiopian bloggers at the state-sponsored blogs in and out of Ethiopia have traditionally been blind to the most pressing issues of Ethiopia while casting prime minster Melese Zenawi as a wise, judicious and prudent African leader who represents Africans on global assemblies. But bloggers journalists and social media users who are dare enough to lay a hand on “taboo” issues of EPRDF like corruption, ethnic federalism, land grab, constitutional reform and deteriorating quality of education will face prison or heavy fines. Blogs and even facebook pages that offended the regime are simply being filtered based on their IP addresses, which is quite similar with the Chinese style internet censorship. As the country’s sole internet service provider is government owned Ethiopian Telecom Corporation, apparently it is effortless to follow and point out independent bloggers which would definitely followed by harassments by government. Recently Ethiopian media have reported that police detained the well-known journalist Eskinder Nega for “attempts to incite” Egypt-style protests.
It came as no surprise that when Addis Neger ‘s newspaper facebook page; the first mainstream newspaper( in fact it was closed in Addis nearly two years ago) to embrace blogs and the social networking environment, defied techniques of internet censorship and continued saturation reporting of Ethiopian governments “taboo” issues, its website is blocked , its facebook page filtered out through its IP address . But Addis Neger’s facebook page and other social media outlets persevered thanks to technology. Along with a group of anonymous insiders and leakers of information to Addis Neger, bloggers and social media users, the Ethiopian social media cemented its place as the alternative for Ethiopian online communities to the state-run media such as ETV’s, Addis Zemen’s or Aigaforum’s lies.
In so doing, the Ethiopian social media communities underscored the necessity of honest, insiders leaked information and fearless reporting and rational debate based on the available information as a prerequisite for democratic change. The strongest message from all Ethiopians social media users across almost all ethnic lines to Ethiopians from Washington to Oslo from Cape Town to Melbourne is that stories that speak the truth and debates that are rational carry the most power.
As the Maghreb initiated and social media supported revolutions started to shatter the region’s despotic regimes of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya the Ethiopian social media communities began to change dramatically as the Ethiopian social media communities discovered their voices and consciences. They are trying to make their points heard in the most possible rational ways .They are forming groups such as Yedil Qen የድል ቀን , Ethiopian Revolution and others . Such groups are few of the Ethiopia’s fledge ling online groups and they frequently share links of videos or websites which reported accounts of Ethiopian government officials’ corruption or lootings as some hardliners described it. These groups also conduct debates which host most of the EPRDF regime’s critic, and the most ardent opponents of the current regime are challenging the state media specifically ETV and the so called critical citizens on the possibilities of the Egyptian style revolutions for spreading a “culture of fear”. Journalists at ETV the government’s main mouthpiece, and at Addis Zemen another state-run paper, tried to give explanations on the causes of Arab revolutions. In doing so they try to frame the ongoing Arab revolutions in the perspective of EPRDF’s interpretation which has reliance on exaggeration or outright lies .They attempted to show that all other perspectives of the revolutions are given by people who are working in decrying corruption of journalism and they say all journalists who tried to give explanation regarding the possibilities of revolution in Ethiopia lack professionalism.
Some high-profile government journalists and workers in Ethiopian Telecom Corporation informed me on anonymous bases that EPRDF is being worried of the Arab revolution and some high profile government officials are insisting and giving orders to continue broadcasting propaganda and monitoring the state of the Ethiopian social media.
While the inspiration of Ethiopian online communities’ revolutionary thought fate will remain unclear, some prominent Ethiopian political environment commentators like Alemahyehu Gebermariam , addressed the issue of the possibilities of Ethiopian revolution as a real possibility in his regular post of Huffington post column, saying, “Africa’s Youths United Can Never be Defeated.”
This newfound enthusiasm and honesty amongst Ethiopian online community is only will able to flourish after a path have continuously been cleared both by journalists in exile and social media users who sometimes risk their lives openly defying the government through their facebook pages . Despite the fear of being beaten or arrested many social media users and bloggers persisted, bolstering morale by churning out arguments and debates on the possibilities of Ethiopian revolution.
Especially facebook, together with some prominent social media networks became electronic public spheres, delivering both news regarding Ethiopia and Ethiopians as well as charting participants’ emotions as they raced between desolation, despair and anger of the current regime of Ethiopia. Unlike failed argumentations and debates drives by more established blogs and paltalk groups of Ethiopia, diaspora and urban youth-driven facebook pages are assembling thousands of supporters online and united disparate sectors of the eighty-million-peoples nation across the globe.
Just as the Tunisian upheaval inspired Egypt’s protestors, Ethiopian exiled journalists, scholars and the diasporas online communities cannot ignore what is happening in Ethiopia, the most populous sub-Saharan country. Although much of Ethiopia’s media live under the thumb of the government, political parties, and concerned groups, or others who think they own the truth, Ethiopia is trying to show and inspire that revolution in Ethiopia is the real possibility .
Ethiopian facebook groups are sprouting, angering and frustrating authorities in Addis Ababa . Different members of budding facebook groups and few Ethiopian bloggers are showing new daring in their arguments and are coordinating across the globe on facebook.
Ethiopian bloggers and members of revolutionary facebook groups who are residing in Ethiopia face great challenges even beyond government bullying: low connectivity, low technical expertise of different blogging platforms and self censorship. Though facebook groups and bloggers discussions of Ethiopian revolutionary messages is raging on facebook groups’ performance resembles more of a “crash-landing.” It is good that honest discussions and arguments is gathering steam, but discussions regarding its real possibilities, who will lead the revolution ,how does it begun what will happen after the revolution not yet surging from Ethiopians home because no one do not know what lay ahead.
But after fellow North Africans forced Ben Ali and Mubarak to resign, most Ethiopians online saw the future and rose to embrace it. They inspire each other with a stunning, bright,Green, Yellow and Red iconic Ethiopian flags and are being inviting one another to be involved with groups like Yedil Qen የድል ቀን

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