Ethiopian Research /MIRH/10 June 2023
This study reviews patterns of domestic and international media reporting and the role of disinformation, misinformation, and media bias in the Tigray conflict, which has been raging since November 2020. Since its outbreak, the conflict has evolved through four broad phases. Throughout these phases, the conflict was characterised by egregious violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international refugee law.
To analyse the role of the media in the conflict, this study reviewed local and international media, conducted interviews with local and international journalists and analysts, and consulted secondary literature. Patterns of reporting by international and local media exhibited fairly significant levels of divergence in the issues that were selected for reporting and how they were reported during these four phases of the conflict.
The study found significant levels of disinformation, misinformation, and biased reporting that clouded accounts of the conflict and encouraged debates over highly contested issues. International media largely disregarded the role that the TPLF played in provoking the federal government to take military action, at times neglecting to mention the TPLF attack on the Ethiopian Northern Command and occasionally even accusing Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy of ordering a wanton attack on Tigray. International journalists either partially or completely ignored the historical context of the conflict. On the other hand, domestic Ethiopian media largely disregarded the violations that were committed by the federal government and were overly focussed on debunking the claims that were made by the TPLF.
Overall, the study found a systematic pattern of local media biased towards the narrative of the federal government, whereas the international media were generally biased towards the narrative of the TPLF. As a result, the voice of the people who suffered the brunt of the fighting became the “casualty” of misinformation, disinformation and biased reporting.