Friday, March 22, 2013
Posted By: Nomonanoto Sidama | At: 3/22/2013 03:48:00 AM
Posted By: Nomonanoto Sidama | At: 3/22/2013 03:27:00 AM
Although opposition parties continue to debate election media distribution, others advise them to fully utilise their share
The National Electorate Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) and the Ethiopian Broadcast Agency (EBA) have amended the ratio for allotted air time for broadcasting on radio and television, and newspaper space, for contesting parties, during the campaign period for the upcoming Addis Abeba city council and local elections.
The directive that became effective on Monday, March 11, 2013, dictates that 30pc of the use of media air time and newspaper space will be allocated on the basis of the number of seats a party has in the parliaments, both at the federal and regional levels. Then, 20pc will be based on the number of candidates that are in the running, whilst the remaining 50pc will be equally shared between all parties.
The current ratio of media share is much different, when compared to the previous local elections, which assigned 60pc to parliament seats, 10pc for the number of candidates in the election and 30pc equally among the parties.
“The amendment of the basis is needed because most seats are currently occupied by the ruling party,” said Werknehe Tafa, acting public relations coordinator at the EBA. “This would give parties, who are newcomers to the election more of an opportunity, since they do not have seats in both houses.”
For this election campaign, the agency has allocated 16 hours of radio, eight hours of TV transmissions and 58 newspaper columns from the state owned media.
Out of these, eight hours of radio, four hours of TV transmission and 29 columns are shared equally, whilst 4.48 hours of radio and 2.24 hours of TV air time is shared based on the parties’ seats in the councils.
“The state media are subjected to promote elections and the political parties’ agenda. Since they are subsidised by the government they should allocate free air time for political parties during the election,” Addisu Gebregziabeher (PhD), deputy chairperson of the NEBE told Fortune.
“In countries, such as theUnited StatesandCanada, parties that participate in elections can use media only when they pay for the broadcasts,” he added.
Based on the distribution criteria, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolution Democratic Front (EPRDF) has got 44pc of the radio, 44.1pc of TV transmissions and 43.4pc of the newspaper columns.
“If we follow other countries’ experiences, the ruling party could get the majority of the share in the media, but we have agreed on the proportion shared by the authority,” says Temesgen Tilahun, head of the affiliated parties & organisation sector of the EPRDF.
The opposition parties, altogether, will share 37.6pc of radio, 37.5pc of TV transmissions and 40.2pc of the newspaper columns. The remaining 18.4pc of radio, 18.3pc of TV and 16.4pc of newspaper columns goes to the affiliate political parties.
However, some opposition parties are not comfortable with the basis of the share, claiming that the ruling party gets the lion’s share, since it has most of the seats in the parliament and has registered many candidates for the election.
“The basis of the ratio is not comprehensible for us and we have requested further discussion on it, since it gives more opportunity to the ruling party,” said Girmay Adera, the chairperson of the Ethiopian Justice & Democratic Forces Front, one of the contesting opposition parties.
The chairperson of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (UDP), the liberal democrats who represent six candidates, also shares the feeling of Girmay, claiming that the media allocation should be distributed equally among the parties.
However, Addisu argued that the discussion was held with the presence of representatives of political parties who shared 50pc of the overall airtime and newspaper columns allocated for the election.
Though the election board has registered 29 political parties to participate in the upcoming election, there are only 24 parties which have registered their candidates, according to Yisma Jiru, deputy public relation officer of the NEBE.
“The time allocation has been done on equity and equality principles to ensure that all parties get enough air time,” says Addisu. “However, compared to the previous elections’ media share of the political parties, it would not be fair if we had followed the previous procedure that gives the ruling party the highest media coverage.”
The government has allocated 12 million Br for the contesting parties to promote their agenda through the state media, according to Werknehe.
In the 2011/12 fiscal year, NEBE had a 7.8 million Br budget and in the current year it has been allocated a 19.8 million Br budget, which is 153.8pc higher than last year.
According to the Board’s website, that announces the programs and kinds of media to be used, there are five TV stations, 12 radio and FM stations and 10 newspapers, both at federal and regional levels that the broadcast agency have identified for the purpose, in five different languages.
However, Addisu complains that even if parties usually criticise their media share, they do not properly use the time allocated to them, even the ruling party.
According to Temesgen, EPRDF used 80pc of its allocated TV time and 89pc of radio transmissions in the previous election. “We are planning to exploit 100pc in this election campaign,” he said.
“This is a big chance, we have got to reach out to the public and introduce our agenda, whether big or small we do not want to waste it,” Girmay says.
On the other side, UDP has decided not to use the allocated media share, claiming that it is not enough time with which to discuss its agenda.
“The parties should utilise their share of air time and newspaper columns properly, and undertake vigorous campaigning activates,” Addisu advices.
The NEBE has officially announced that it has registered 30.6 million voters for the election to be held in May 2013.
Glimpse of the issues
Addisu G/egziabher, (PhD), is the Deputy Chairman of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, appointed by the House of Peoples’ Representatives since 2007. He is a trainer and researcher in areas of, human rights law, constitutional law, conflict prevention and management, federalism, industrialisation and private sector.
Fortune: For those political parties who have no seats in the parliament and are participating in the election with few candidates, do you think the current allocation of airtime and print space of a state media for the nationwide local and Addis Abeba Council election campaign is fair?
Addisu G/egziabher: If you compare the previous directive issued in 2010 with that of the current, it gave 25pc of the airtime equally among political parties. However, currently, this is increased to 50pc. I think this will enable parties, which are participating in the upcoming election to have more airtime compared to the last general election.
In the previous election, political parties also received 55pc of the total airtime based on their seats in the parliament. This is now decreased to 30pc since 99.6pc of the seats in the parliament are taken by the the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). If the basis of time allocation remained as it was, the EPRDF will have the lion’s share. Political parties can also register more candidates in order to have a significant share out of the remaining 20pc time allocated.
Q: Is there any movement to hold the Addis Abeba city election alongside the national election in the future to conduct a more focused election?
If this really matters to the public, we should consider bringing it back with the national election.
Q: Regarding the use of technology, if you look at the election that took place in Kenya a few days ago, there were no reports of unrest or violence, unlike 2007 election. Kenya invested in technology, which brought increased voter confidence in the country. When will Ethiopia’s election board consider such technological advancement?
Although using technology is useful to conduct a more transparent election, I think that it would be too ambitious in Ethiopia’s context due to the current capacity level of the country.