Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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NIGUSSIE Meshesha Mitike, Hawassa University, Ethiopia

It is known that Ethiopia is the land of diversity, and particularly the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS) is a cultural mosaic, a linguistically diverse region of the nation comprising of 56 ethnic and language groups. The constitution of the government of Ethiopia (1995), Article Five gives all Ethiopian languages equal state recognition to develop and to use the languages for social, cultural and political purposes. In line with this, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Proclamation No.178/1999 and the Ethiopian Broadcasting Proclamation No. 553/2007, as well as the Access to Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation No. 590/2008 provide the legal grounds for practicing media freely for social, political and cultural ends, and also for democratic building in Ethiopia. Therefore, the present study has the objective to examine the media and language-use situation in the SNNPRS of Ethiopia with the intention of identifying the legal, cultural and language policy implications in addressing the linguistic, cultural, social and political rights of the people in Ethiopia. To this end, the study employs mixed research design, quantitative and qualitative methods, and uses both primary and secondary data sources. For data collection, both questionnaire and interview are used as instruments along with document analysis. The data was collected from South Omo zone by taking Jinka and Gazer towns where the zonal area is a place where linguistic variations are highly witnessed. For primary data collection, some town dwellers, students, teachers, lawyers, and journalists were included using random and purposive sampling methods. In data collection, 60 respondents were included for questionnaire and 12 key informants were included for interview. The constitution of Ethiopia (1995), media proclamations, and other sources are reviewed for document analysis. The study found that in spite of all the constitutional and media laws, background, and a fertile policy ground for most of the languages to develop and be used in media, the use of language in media still has far to go. Most of the languages do not have their own orthography or it is not very developed, they do not have sufficient written materials, and cannot become language of school, courts and media. In fact, the SNNPRS Government has started to offer mother tongue education in 28 languages and to broadcast 47 languages in media, but it can be argued that the efforts taken by the government have been challenged by the language's development level, human resources development, and the media infrastructure. Still, due to the higher linguistic variations and other related challenges, the language use situation in media of the SNNPRS is still far to reach and highly problematic. Finally, it is found out that there seems to be a good start in terms of legal policy and the usability of some of the languages in courts with direct or through translation and in schools, but still from media, cultural, and social perspectives, it is still far to go in using the languages for various social affairs.