Challenging EBC’s Facts: The Tizita Geremew Controversy

A Facebook post by EBC fact-check, a fact-checking unit of Ethiopian Broadcast Corporation, regarding Tizita Geremew, a PhD student and former lecturer at Wollo University, garnered significant attention on social media. EBC fact-check explored the story of Tizita, formerly a statistics teacher at Wollo University, with the headlineThe Beggar Candidate Doctor And The Truth.” The post asserts Tizita’s situation based on an interview with Wollo University’s human resource director, Bedimariam Akalu. Bedimariam explained to EBC fact-check that Tizita Geremew used to teach at the university but faced challenges in attending classes consistently and struggled to teach effectively due to mental health issues and other difficulties. He further stated that despite Wollo University’s recommendation for her to remain, Tizita resigned due to her ongoing health concerns.

Tizita Geremew has been teaching statistics at Wollo University from 2012 to 2024. As HaqCheck can see in the service certificate she acquired, she moved to Addis after she quit her teaching job at the university after asking for her work experience letter from the university in August 2023 and left on February 20, 2024, she quit mainly because of her current health issue and the economic barriers she faced there. The question of survival didn’t get an answer when she moved to the capital, Addis Ababa, forcing her to go out to the streets and ask for help. 

EBC fact check refers to Tizitas’s situation after claiming to check the truth behind her, which includes only one phone call to Wollo University’s human resource director. The article, which tends to bring the truth to the audience, uses one phone call to conclude Tizitas’s financial situation and current struggle to live. EBC posted the conversation they had with the HR director of Wollo University, who referred to Tizita as a mentally ill person and then added that she didn’t accept the offer made by Wollo University not to quit her job.

As HaqCheck investigated the previous posts, EBC Fact Check most likely seemed interested in sharing details on claims it had found to be misleading regarding government-affiliated entities. As is evident, the fact-checking page contains quite a few non-governmental and foreign incidents; instead, announcements taken from institutions of government such as the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Ethiopian Airlines, Government Communication Service, Information Network Security Administration, City and Federal security forces, and others make up over 90% of its content. Instead of being a fact checker, the website might be imagined as a reporter. Sometimes, it simply shares information without providing any evidence of its own or by using other fact-checking organizations like AFP as a source.

EBC fact-check failed to follow the basic fact-checking process that can lead to the truth; from the above article and clip, any third party dare say that EBC didn’t conduct and deliver a shred of evidence proving the claim that the HR director has made of Wollo University. The fact-checking process did not evaluate the information they got from the story’s owner, which will make it be presented unfairly. The claim made by the HR manager and then by EBC presumed Tizita’s mental health without any proof. EBC fact-check is needed to fully understand the content of their fact-checking, leading to misuse of the contexts in Tizitas’ situation. Tizita was seeking only financial support, whereas EBC fact-check tried to contact Wollo University as if she was trying to defame the institution. 

In our investigation into the EBC fact check’s coverage of the woman formerly employed at Wolo University, we conducted a phone interview with Tizita Geremew. This interview provided valuable insights into the circumstances surrounding her departure from the university and challenged some of the claims made by EBC. Former statistics teacher Tizita spent twelve years teaching with additional community work. She was also a dedicated and respected member of the faculty, and her decision to leave was influenced by external factors unrelated to her mental health. Tizita believes that the claim made by the university will make her struggle to get a job and it also has the potential to cause discrimination against her. Tizta underlines that she doesn’t have any mental health issues. She added that she was teaching there and studying while the director worked in the human resource department. The Director mentioned that she had a mental illness without any medical proof. From her words, she only met the HR Director twice, making the individual unfit to assume Tizita’s health situation. 

We have also received documents from Tizita Geremew proving her significant employment history at the university. The letter from the college administrator, combined with her experience letter and other credentials, demonstrates her active involvement in statistics and related subjects. These documents are essential for validating Tizita Geremew’s professional background and expertise. The experience letter will likely explain her duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments at the university. Furthermore, her diplomas confirm her qualifications and expertise in statistics and related fields. These materials provide a detailed picture of Tizita Geremew’s academic career path, highlighting her dedication and expertise in her subject.

In examining EBC’s coverage of Tizita’s situation, it becomes evident that their fact-checking process exhibits several noticeable lapses; on April 23, 2024, a journalist at EBC who wanted to stay anonymous stated that “it was necessary to verify the information from multiple sources instead of relying only on one.”, He then added, “Tizita needed to deliver documents.”, but as we can see from their report, they didn’t ask her or try to involve her in the checking process before publishing the post. One of the primary shortcomings of the EBC fact-checking process is its reliance on a single source of information, which was only the university’s human resources. They only depend on the perspective of one individual. EBC fact checks may have overlooked alternative viewpoints but failed to comprehensively understand the situation.

Furthermore, EBC’s coverage appears to lack cross-checking of the claims made by the university regarding Tizita’s mental health to ensure accuracy. The absence of cross-checking raises concern about the ”EBC fact check” fact-checking process. Lastly, EBC didn’t follow up with deceptions to ensure the accuracy and completeness of their fact-checking, even if the aim was to reveal the truth. From our interview with Tizita and the documents she shared, Tizita started working at “Champion Communication” as a data researcher in the EBR Economic Research and Business Intelligence unit on April 3, 2024.

Journalism has its ethical principles that journalists must follow. Privacy is one consideration that journalists need to be responsible for. EBC Fact Check coverage of Tizita’s situation raises concern about the invasion of Tizita’s privacy rights. Hailegiorgis Mamo(PhD), media ethics lecturer at the School of Journalism at Addis Ababa University, argues that since the Tizita story involves private health details it must not be displayed by EBC also Wollo University since it is confidential, in the sense of journalism this kind of personal details need to be safeguarded by media. “Regretfully, both parties divulged delicate personal information that might hurt her future professional and interpersonal relationships.” There are some ethical considerations during any kind of fact-checking. The claim made by the university HR head on the mental health of Tizita must have been kept and protected by the university and EBC. Publicly disclosing sensitive information about her mental health without her consent or proper verification, EBC may have infringed upon Tizit’s right to privacy.

In conclusion, the post made by EBC that covers Tizita’s situation reveals significant ethical concerns of journalism regarding accuracy, transparency, and privacy rights. Only relies on a single source and tends not to cross-check, potentially violating Tizita’s privacy and implicating Tizita’s well-being. The EBC Fact Check report raises questions about the standards of a responsible journalist and the fact-checking process. Moving forward, media organizations like EBC must do their journalistic work reasonably and prioritize thoughtful reporting. This can be achieved by adhering to all guidelines, consulting, legal expertise, and reporting for accurate outcomes only.

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