A critical study of the treatment of public relations information in Ethiopian News

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Addis Ababa University


Government public relations in Ethiopia have been strengthened over the past three years. The Ministry of Information has repeatedly underlined that the role of public relations in informing the public through the media must be strong and sustainable. One can easily see the contribution of public relations in the daily news-making process when reading or listening to news. For several governmental and non-governmental organizations, the primary role of public relations is to promote the activities of the organization. The media on the other hand are expected to use diverse sources in order to present different sides of the story. This typically leads to a tense relationship between journalists and public relations officers. Nonetheless, there is a symbiotic relationship between the two professions (media and public relations). Public relations need the media as a channel to broadcast its message, while the media need public relations to get access to source material. This research has interrogated two issues. The first is the extent to which journalists in Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) use public relations information, and the second is what impact the relationship between ENA and public relations offices has in the news-making process. The research has used qualitative methods by means of data analysis, in-depth interviews as well as database material analysis. The study shows that ENA do not consult other sources to crosscheck the information it receives from governmental public relations. The study shows that the relationship between ENA journalists and public relations officers is a protective one because ENA journalists do not crosscheck the information they receive from the latter and public relations departments are almost the only way to access government information. The research also identified internal and external factors as reasons for the failure to crosscheck public relations information. Journalists cited lack of professionalism; trust in public relations; deadline pressure; competition; and amount of news expected as internal factors that impede to crosscheck public relations information. Journalists being powerless; geographical distance and poor infrastructure; public relations ‘dictatorship’ and gender issues were identified by journalists as external factors that hold back the critical investigation of public relations information.



treatment of public relations