Ethiopia’s unseen protests

August 9, 2016

The bloodiest protests so far in 2016 took place over the weekend in Ethiopia but if you were watching television, checking the trending hashtags on Twitter or reading Google News you probably didn’t hear much about them. Even if you followed the Twitter feeds for Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International you wouldn’t have heard that dozens of protesters had been shot and killed by police during anti-government protests.
The dearth of coverage remains so bad that as of 12:00 GMT on Tuesday August 9th BBC, CNN, CCTV, DWTV, RT, and Euronews have collectively uploaded over 100 news clips to their youtube accounts in the past 24 hours and none of them even mentions Ethiopia. Al Jazeera English (AJE) published a brief video segment on Youtube of the weekend’s horrific events but the rest of the global television news media has kept mum about the protests.

The lack of coverage of major protests by global television news broadcasters should give media scholars pause. This situation should encourage researchers to reflect on some of the long standing discussions about geographic coverage bias in news reporting. All too often students, researchers and policy makers seem to unquestioningly believe the arguments of neoliberal and technological utopians who say that we live in a “flattened,” globalized world where ubiquitous smart phones and internet will ensure that all significant news stories will be treated equally and receive their fair share of coverage by global media organizations. That world is clearly not the world Ethiopians are living in today but who is to say whether or not it might become the world of tomorrow.
Questions about what, when, and which protests get televised by global television media networks are all relevant to the study of contemporary journalism and protests. These empirical questions are some of those being addressed by researchers as part of the Screening Protest Project and ones that scholars around the world should continue to explore.

Jacob Sommer

Cite This:
Screening Protest — "Ethiopia’s unseen protests," in The Screening Protest Project, August 9, 2016