16 December 2020, Bishoftu – Ethiopia – The IGAD Security Sector Program (IGAD SSP) has successfully concluded a three days national training on the Role of Media in Preventing and Countering Terrorism. The objective of the training was to raise awareness on the role the media plays as well as enhance the capacities of journalists, editors, and media professionals in countering and preventing terrorism, violent extremism, and other serious crimes.
One of the objectives of the IGAD Security Sector Program (IGAD SSP) is to enhance institutional and human capacities of Member States to effectively address emerging, evolving, and existing transnational security threats (EEE-TSTs) in order to contribute to regional peace and stability, and foster enabling environment for regional integration and development of the sub-region. Hence, this specific training was part of this objective in complimenting the efforts of the Member States, Ethiopia in this case, in countering terrorism and other related crimes. The training was conducted with the financial support from the European Union Trust Fund (EUTF) through the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) under the IPPSHAR Program.
It is very crucial for successful prevention and effective counter terrorism and organized extreme forms of violence to adopt an agreed code of conduct on good practices in order to enhance appropriate understanding on the complex nature of terrorism and all other forms of transnational security threats among all stakeholders at national, regional and global levels, as Member States are constantly expressing concerns over the use of social media and open sources of information by the terrorist and their affiliates. Hence, this training was intended to focus on the nature of the threats posed by terrorist organizations to the stability and the security of the MS and their citizens of the Region in general and Ethiopia in particular.
The training was officially opened by Commander Abebe Muluneh, Director of IGAD SSP. In his opening remarks, Commander Abebe highlighted that “terrorism and political violence particularly put the classical pillars of journalistic ethics to test such as the pursuit of truth, independence, responsibility to others, and transparency”. He further emphasized that media professionals “have to know the basic requirements to cover crisis situations like the duty of knowledge, facing the law, relation with authorities, framing the crisis situation like rule of law and human rights, confronting fear, inclusiveness, and thinking globally”.
The training was conducted by senior academic members of the School of Journalism in Addis Ababa University who shared their expertise by providing theoretical and practical knowledge to the participants. The contents covered included:
- Defining terrorism and recognizing issues conducive to terrorism
- Reporting different forms of terrorism and political violence
- Journalistic guiding principles in covering terrorism
- Balancing information with humanity, using terms, figures and images
- Media planning
- National, regional and international legal frameworks in counter terrorism – freedom of expression, media freedom, etc.
The training brought together 30 journalists and media professionals from the public and private media outlets including TV, radio, and print. During the three days, they discussed and exchanged their experiences and challenges in reporting and covering on issues and themes related to counterterrorism, violent extremism and violent political situations. The participants alluded to the timely training of this specific content taking into account the current situation in Ethiopia and asserted that the training was very helpful in enhancing their skills and knowledge.
During the closing session, the training participants conducted an exercise through media planning putting what they have learned and shared through experience into practice. They also provided their concrete recommendations and way forward in terms of the overall training and future interventions through a transparent process of evaluation.
In closing the training, Commander Abebe providing a closing remark by thanking the participants, the experts and IGAD staff for their dedicated efforts and active participation to make the training a success. In his remark, Commander Abebe stressed on the importance of code of conduct by saying “while various codes may have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and public accountability, as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination. People and individuals have to acquire an objective picture of reality by means of accurate and comprehensive information as well as to express themselves freely through the various media of culture and communication. In conclusion, participants were provided with certification of participation to acknowledge their dedicated involvement in the training process.