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Ethiopian Diaspora Media Compete Over Message

  • Nico Colombant

Nunu Wako is one of several Ethiopian media hosts based in Silver Spring, Maryland. (VOA/Nico Colombant)

Nunu Wako is one of several Ethiopian media hosts based in Silver Spring, Maryland. (VOA/Nico Colombant)

SILVER SPRING, Maryland - As African media ventures have grown quickly in recent years, members of the diaspora in the United States are contributing to the surge of production. Within one of these communities, there is fierce competition over the messages that are being broadcast.

At a recent anti-Ethiopian government rally in the city of Thurmont, Maryland, many of the journalists and citizen journalists recording material were from the Ethiopian diaspora.

Photos and videos of the protest were quickly posted on Ethiopian diaspora websites.

Another part of Maryland, Silver Spring, has, for years, been the base for Discovery Communications, which bills itself as the world’s top non-fiction media company.

More recently, this Washington suburb has become the hub of competing Ethiopian diaspora media.

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Ethiopian-born, American-raised Nunu Wako is preparing to tape an interview for her lifestyle show called "The Nunu Wako Show". It airs on the EBS television network.
Many of her shows focus on success stories in the diaspora.

“Our focus is Ethiopians and Africans," Wako explains. "We want to tell the story, the journey that we take when we are not in Ethiopia and how we do everything that might not be doable, but make the impossible possible."

She adds that her program, like others on EBS, stays away from politics which deeply divide her community. Some members are strong supporters of two-decade ruler Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, while others call him a dictator who suppresses freedoms. Very few Ethiopian immigrants have an impartial view.

From a nearby studio in Silver Spring, Abebe Belew hosts his weekly Addis Dimts radio show. He says he has no choice but to discuss politics.

“I speak about all the issues, but most of the time, the serious problem is Ethiopian politics," Belew notes. "If you have been to Ethiopia, you can see we have a very young generation, the majority of them, and the atmosphere, the global atmosphere for change is very suitable. But because of the Meles dictator government, the Ethiopians cannot do anything.”

Belew said that he would be thrown in jail if he did his radio show in Ethiopia. His show costs $75,000 per year with much of the money coming from online donations.

“It is clear for Ethiopians. All you have to do is speak the truth and tell it as it is. So that is how my style is,” Belew adds.

Opponents of the Ethiopian government interviewed at the Thurmont protest said they loved the Addis Dimts show, while they said shows like those broadcast on EBS appeal to supporters of Prime Minister Meles.

But they said it is nice to be able to choose from more and more African media, including those being made in the diaspora, where freedom of speech and media go much further than they do at home.

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