Birhanu Olana Dirbaba
Journalists' Identity: The Comparison of Perceived Professional Roles and Actual Traits of Ethiopian Journalists
|Author||Birhanu Olana Dirbaba|
This research project examines the professional perceptions and practices of Ethiopian journalists in relation to normative models of journalism. The project tests the proposition that Ethiopian journalists are subject to pressures that make them behave in ways far removed from their professional values and role perceptions. It also identifies pressures influencing the current practice of professional journalism in Ethiopia. In a nutshell, the project compares the similarities and differences between journalists working in commercial and government owned mass media, in terms of their professional identities and actual behaviours. It also investigates the major socio-cultural, political and historical factors that have contributed to tensions within the profession about the professional standards and priorities.
This project highlights the functional importance of journalism as a professional agent of communication in Ethiopia, a country where economic modernization and political democracy are still in their infancy. It outlines the challenges journalists face in providing professional information services in a society where the relations between people of different cultures, ethnicities, political factions, and religious sects are always fragile and volatile. These conditions, arguably, call for greater professionalism in terms of the “mental and moral force” of the journalist (Hodges 1986). Yet, Ethiopian press history tells another story. Since the first newspapers were set up at the beginning of the 20th century, research indicates that journalists’ main role has been to convey the ideology of successive elites to the population. More recently, however, the country’s mass media system has shown rapid development. This includes the development of regional broadcast mass media, the expansion of commercial print media sector, and the increasing number of universities offering journalism education courses. As a consequence, there is an increasing number of journalists. These trends in media infrastructure development, economics, professional workforce, and occupational priorities provide the context for raising questions about the changing professional identity of Ethiopian journalists.