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Was it a Hatchet Job or a Smear Campaign? A Propaganda Video Designed to Deceive and Mislead the Masses

Badr Ethiopia,
Washington DC

The rules of disinformation dictate that real issues are avoided and side issues are highlighted. Rules and regulations are discarded when convenient; and maintained when subservient. Drama is depicted and truth is restricted. Scary images are projected and information is fabricated. The propaganda machine is selected and coerced statements are extracted. The public is intimidated and fear mongering is initiated. The picture is complete when the government plan is concrete.


The Ethiopian government’s incessant and abusive predatory tactics strike fear into the hearts of its citizens by constantly besmirching and demeaning the peaceful mass movement of Ethiopian Muslims and voraciously attacking the incarcerated Arbitration Committee members. The first part of this dramatic episode was fully revealed yesterday when the grossly distorted video called “Jihadawi Harekat”, which literally means “Jihadi Movement”, aired on national TV in Ethiopia.

The government’s production of this scripted and amateurish video drama clearly shows an arrogant attitude and an impenetrable ego. The video camera was slicing and dicing a tapestry of images plucked from different countries and woven together to look whole and one and the same. But the constant movement of the goalpost in the interrogation procedure supports the conclusion that the government’s act of eviscerating the testimony foiled their grand plan. It was evident that the oral utterances of the prejudicially incarcerated Muslims were forcibly extracted under duress for public consumption and self-incrimination. Verbal incoherencies in the statements they gave and some signs of mistreatment were visible on the bodies of the prisoners who might have been subjected to harsh and extrajudicial interrogation techniques to yield false information to the exact specifications of the interrogators and their bosses. The highly dubious nature of their confessions lends credence to their visit of the torture chamber. This was a classic case of misinformation and disinformation campaign. This entails the mantra that the fear of every minority is the majority being in hysteria. The video illustrates vividly that intimidation has overtaken solicitation as the modus operandi of the government. Sadly, the fallout over this video debacle will also have long lasting repercussions for Ethiopia and its citizens.

Fortunately, the fabricated video that doubles as a “documentary” film was a total fiasco as it produced the opposite effect of the outcome that was expected. The Ethiopian government that has been publicly claiming for some time that it is practicing the rule of law and adhering to democratic principles of governance was caught bare-footed practicing the exact opposite of that principle. This is a watershed moment for the constitution, which is literally being abandoned as a museum piece of erudite collection. The government is embarking on the autocratic method of absolute authority, which has reached fever pitch. Where there is fever, delusion is right behind.

Yesterday’s public airing of the video that was disguised as a “documentary” film has been universally discredited for its premeditated and prefabricated plots. The public showing of the video by the government, which controls all media outlets, seems destined for planting the seeds of hatred and animosity within the Muslim community as well as to create division within the larger Ethiopian population. The official act of publicly demonizing and disparaging the prisoners before their trial in the court of law was highly deceptive and misleading. This demonization tactic also follows the rules of disinformation and suppression of the truth. This method works especially well with a silent press, because the only way the public can learn of the facts is through the rumor mill. The government amplifies the trumped-up charges against the “Prisoners of Conscience”, fabricates it and then feeds it into its propaganda machine to avoid discussion of the real issues of law and order. Therefore, the smear campaign levied against the Arbitration Committee members and other Muslims that are languishing in prison is preposterous and prejudicial and would never see daylight in the common courts of genuinely democratic countries.

To be sure, if this was a real case of terrorism inside Ethiopia or anywhere else for that matter, Badr and all decent Ethiopian Muslims would have been first in line to condemn it and chase it out of town. But those depicted in the crude video are innocent until proven guilty in the court of law. They managed to conduct a very peaceful and exemplary protest against callous infringements on their basic rights to worship freely. They were never a threat to Ethiopia or the government. They were genuine patriots concerned with the condition of their fellow country men and women who were suffocating from the lack of freedom to practice their religion. They also worked hard and were instrumental as partners with the government a few years ago to get it re-elected by the majority of the Muslim population. But these prisoners of conscience instead have become shooting targets for dirty political games. Again, borrowing from the disinformation handbook, one can clearly see that sidetracking protesters or opponents with name calling such as “terrorists” and ridiculing their time-honored mission by calling them “jihadists” smacks of their good record as statesmen and as peaceful negotiators. The video’s disparaging message was designed to make others shrink from supporting them out of fear of gaining the same label, and thus the government gets away with slander once again by avoiding dealing with real issues concerning freedom and worship.

The contents of the film also stem from falsehood and were intended to plant the seeds of division within the Muslims and between the two prominent religious traditions in Ethiopia. This will also damage Ethiopia’s reputation for the time-honored exemplary tolerance and peaceful co-existence between the Christians and the Muslims. In the final analysis, this crude and defamatory film failed to deliver the message that the propagators intended for it. To the contrary, it further alienated the people from the government.

At any rate, Badr Ethiopia strongly denounces and condemns the airing of this video and the fabrication of its contents. The message that Badr would like to send to those infuriated by this video and are upset or distressed at the despicable condition of the Muslim men they saw on the TV screen is: Keep them in your Du’a. This will pass and the truth will bear fruit for their sacrifice. The fabricated video is just a window dresser, which will collapse on its own. Please do not worry, this drama just shows the head wind of a plummeting mass distortion campaign and is a sign of desperation. You can fool some people some time but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Remember to separate the wheat from the chaff. So, was the video a hatchet job or a smear campaign? It will behoove you to catch some points of inflection.

Fabricated videos like managed news are double-edged swords. The smooth edge can entertain by delivering a stage show. But the jagged edge can increase fear and hatred by delivering a scary show. So, which side of the auditorium were you sitting when you watched the video: The imaginary side or the reality side? Please, do not burn the midnight candle to discover the truth.

Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want. Calamities are a checkbook for the reality of belief.

“An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.” – Winston Churchill


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