A call is being made to at least fire shabait.com editor

A call is being made to at least fire shabait.com editor Mahmud Saleh Today, February 27, 2014, you will find 11 news items on the opening page of shabait.com. Six of the news headlines start with

A call is being made to at least fire shabait.com editor

Mahmud Saleh

Today, February 27, 2014, you will find 11 news items on the opening page of shabait.com. Six of the news headlines start with “Call made to…” a matter that must have annoyed Saleh Younis of Awate.com when he joked about the laziness of shabait.com journalists. Imagine a local or even a school’s webpage in that form! Wouldn’t you expect the editor would get a startling call from his/her boss the time he/she published that page?

News headlines are sensitive; they are magnets of busy readers; particularly in today’s world of media competition. Wording of news headlines need to be short and inviting, and not repeating the same words or phrases, especially on one page. Of course, they should not be too faddish or appear to be as flashy as commercial ads.  I’m not going to say much about stuff I am not qualified to lecture the editor of shabait.com. However, it’s safe, from a consumer point of view, to tell him/her that it’s a bad job using the same 6 phrasings of 11 headlines. “It is laziness which originates from the journalists’ sense that there is nothing to lose by being sloppy,” says a friend who is familiar with shabait.com and the Ministry of Information. He continues,” If they are made to understand their livelihood depends on how creative they become to keep their job, they will work harder to come up with interesting headlines.”

It is another illustration how things must be chugging with snail’s pace; another example of the prevailing “Those whom it concerns need to pay attention to this….that…” culture (ዝምልከቶ ኣቓልቦ ይግበረሉ ባህሊ). I suspect Shabait.com journalists’ commitment to improving their products may be compromised due to the fact that these people are made to write and edit stuff they are not happy with; creativity demands liberty. Or maybe they lack the motivation it takes to hone their skills; the sense that they could be fired for doing bad job; the fact that there is no competition that threatens their “business.” But how about the reward one gets simply for perfecting the job at hand? Forget about “clients”- there are no clients-do shabait.com journalists enjoy reading what they write?

In the late 1970s, I happened to be with a gifted artist, Amanuel Afewerki, who would not be happy with any finishing of an arts work, drawing, poems…etc. He was mentally ill but very smart and witty. We were very young, therefore, there was nothing more exciting than assembling around Amanuel. While writing a poem, Amanuel would change words in a speed that surpassed that of the fastest talker; he would change colors and themes of drawings, also at a staggering speed; all this in front of us. When he reached a point of finishing his works we felt was final, we would all say,” stop…stop…that’s good now.” He would look at our faces, one by one, and smile; his face would appear to be radiating a profound sense of satisfaction. He knew he hit the chord; he satisfied his “clients” expectation. He did his “editing” well.

It was a time when we were under tremendous pressure by advancing Ethiopian campaigns; a time when the EPLF was on its hind leg, fighting to secure the last foothold. Amanuel Afewerki knew the need of editing and tried to make our faces glee with happiness under that difficult situation. But he would subsequently shred his works to pieces and throw them to the air. The next day he would start another project and the cycle would continue. The mental illness hidden from our view, deep in his brain, kept bothering him. After a decade plus some years, Amanuel died of drowning in Asmara; I had the opportunity to attend his funeral. I don’t know if we still have some of his “edited” works; I miss him.

Amanuel was doing that “editing” not expecting to get paid for it but for his personal satisfaction and the happiness his works brought to his comrades. While writing this piece, I will do what I could to make it readable. Readers will know what errors are due to my laziness and what else do you to my capacity. I’m sure they will forgive me for errors that occur due to my capacity; otherwise, I would not dare to write. In this sense, when you write 6/11 headlines on one page with the same wording “A call made…” it is not a question of capacity but that of a laziness. Do you remember the competition we saw during the short period of the private press, do you remember how aggressive the private papers were to excel in reporting in order to lure clients; that was because it was business; it was livelihood.

As I write this article, I’m watching ERI-TV, and there is a report about another ministry’s laziness. The report shows customers who have been coming to the revenue collection office, in the mai-Temenay area of Asmara, to pay their taxes, but have not been attended to. One customer says he has been coming to that office for a year; another female customer argues, with a voice of bitterness, that people have been waiting in line starting at 0500 and that they have not gotten service. “Where is the supervisor, can’t he even apologize to us?” She asks. She explains to the reporter that people were enduring inconveniences despite irresponsible bureaucrat’s clumsy explanations of blaming electricity stoppage and similar excuses that demonstrate inept administrative culture. “Here you have people wasting their time to pay taxes and a government that does not seem worried to collect it!”  She exclaims. The reporter said she went to the supervisor to put him/her on record, but nobody was willing to talk to her.

It’s amazing before I finish this writing which was to call for the firing of shabait.com editor, I have seen a reporter who has done her job on ERI-TV; she located a news source; she went to the location and spoke with those who complained; she tried to get an answer from authorities-albeit unsuccessful- to make her reporting balanced. Compare this and that of Amanuel Afewerki’s story with the laziness of the editor of shabait.com. Don’t you agree with me on calling for the firing of shabait.com editor?

That’s if you conclude shabait.com’s style is a separate problem, not a representative example of the maladies in the country. OK, let’s accept the excuses officials give us that it takes years to build a capacity to administer a country (though it has been 23 years since this administration assumed power). Should it take years to evaluate an editor of a website, too? “You see, you do not expect different outcomes from ministers, governors and director generals assigned for life. You do not expect different outcomes from the same administration. Shabait.com’s editor’s laziness represents the whole public administration chronic illness. If you are not accountable for your laziness, laziness becomes your essence,” says my friend. He thinks people should call for the firing of the whole system. That’s my friend’s take; but I’m so tired of reading depressing headlines; I need a respite till the big task my friend is calling for is made. So, for now, I’m calling for the good minister of information to fire the editor of shabait.com. Now, here, we have a problem: who is that minister, anyway? Rumors have it Asmara has not lost hope for the return of Ali Abdu; the father of bad reporting.

The process of evaluating and subsequent firing of the system has been an ongoing task for the citizens of Eritrea. It may take some time. But the firing of the editor of shabait.com could be done; it will actually show how people oriented (hzbawi) our government is. You see, here, there is a common interest for both the government and those who call for its firing. If our people’s government does not care about collecting internal revenue as demonstrated by the neglect of tax payers pleas in Mai-Temenay, at least it should care about its image, about its propaganda machine. That’s why I think it is possible to call for the firing of this lazy editor. The problem is: this is not a one day occurrence but a habitual laziness. So, it is fair to suggest this may be a systemic one; but let’s start with this editor. I am serious.

Dear whom it may concern (ዝምልከቶ ኣካል)፡ It does not surprise me if you trash my opinion as an enemy’s ploy intended to rattling the system; the fact is, sometimes we learn more from our enemies than we do so from our friends; so fire the editor of shabait.com now!

Questions or comments may be sent to: maazenmah@yahoo.com


Review overview
  • bana February 28, 2014

    Also call shuol be made for Issayas to resign peacefully.

  • romay February 28, 2014

    ሓደ ነገር ኣሎ ዝረሳዕካዮ። እዚ ትውንጅሎ ዘለኻ ጋዜጠኛ ምናልባት ሃገራዊ
    ኣገልግሎት ይኸውን። ዓቕሚ ይህልዎ ይኸውን፡ ግን ንነዊሕ እዋን ብዘይ ደሞዝ
    ይሰርሕ ይህሉ፡፡ ካልኣይ ነገር ሞያኻ ተገዲድካ ዘይኮነስ ፈቲኻዮ ክትሰርሕ ከለኻ
    ኢኻ ተድምዕ፡፡ ኣነ ብወገነይ ነዚ editor ናይ Shabait ክኸሶ ኣይክእልን፡፡ እዚ ናይቲ መንግስቲ
    ግዕዙይ ምሕደራ ኢዩ፡፡ ሰብ በብሞያኡ ተመዲቡ ኣይፈልጥን ኢዩ፡፡ መዋእልካ ከተኸፈልካ
    ክትሰርሕ፡ በቲ ሓደ ሸነኽ ድማ ከይሰርሑ ምስቲ ስርዓት ተጸጊዖም ዘይተኣደነ ሃብቲ ዘዋህለሉ
    ባእታታት እንዳራኣኻ ከመይ ጌርካ ኢኻ ተጊህካ ትሰርሕ፡፡ እዚ ትብሎ ዘለኻ ሰብ እንተድኣ ኣባሪረሞ
    ድማ ዕዳ ቀለለ። እንታይ ከይጎድሎ እንትርፎ ናጻ ኣገልግሎት

    • mahmud saleh February 28, 2014

      ሮማይ፡ ጽቡቕ ኣለኻ። ኣነ እውን ተበላሓትነት ወይ ነጠፍጠፍ ምባል ናጽነት ከምዘድልዮን እቲ ናይቲ አዲተር ስንፍና ምልክት ስንፍና ናይቲ ስርዓት ክኸውን ከምዝኽእል ኣተንቢሀ ኣለኹ። ሓቅኻ ዘይክፈል ናይ ኣገልግሎት እውን ክክኸውን ይኽእል። እቲ ምብራር እውን ንቡን ኢለ እምበር ናይ ብሓቂ ከባርርዎ/ዋ ኢለ ኣይጽበን። እንጽሕፎ ከ የንብቡዎ ድዮም? ብዳእላ መልእኽቲ ንምምሕልላፍ እዩ።

  • Nati February 28, 2014

    Dear Mahmud .
    Thank you for bringing the issues of the shabait.com editor’s incompetence to our attention but your article makes sense only in a free society.

    What drives the human genome to productivity is incentive. If there is no incentive or reward equivalent to what I do, be it economical, professional, personal etc., there is no reason for me to toil while the very entity that I work for is taking away everything I have. Is there a similar environment today for competition and incentive that we saw during the short period of the private press era? No, I don’t see it. Therefore, the two may not be comparable. The driving force behind progress is individuals’ effort to maximize his own gains. When controlled and oppressed, there is no incentive for individuals to sweat for excellence. And that is what is taking place in today’s Eritrea.
    If I may bring two points to your attention:

    1. Why do you think the idea of communism failed to reach its utopian class-less society? The answer is because there was no incentive for individuals to excel. In Leninism, Maoism and Marxism, whether you are an Aerospace scientist, a doctor, a clerk or a floor-sweeper, you get paid the same. And you can see that the system was predestined to fail from the start.
    2. Incentive drives us to excel almost like a hungry man who wants to eat to survive. The well-known theoretical metaphor of “the invisible hand” by Adam Smith, says it all. If there is incentive (and incentive has many forms), he argues, Individuals can make it without the need for government intervention and society (customer) benefits even if the ambitious have no benevolent intentions.


    • mahmud saleh February 28, 2014

      Thank you, I hope I reflected the same idea, though in a satirical way, stating that creativity demands liberty; those journalists are hard working and qualified ones, but as you put it, they lack the incentive factor. Thanks again.