Interview with NTV’s Yassin Juma : Part III – Did your feelings change when your linkmen told you that there was a fighting? What were the guarantees for you and your cameraman’s personal safety?

Y.J – To be honest, I must have asked my cameraman “what have we got ourselves into” when we were stranded at the border point following reports that the rebels were engaging government troops.

But I was more worried about my cameramen Eric OKoth, as this was his first assignment covering a war. I had done that for six years. Of course, I knew what I had gotten myself into…there were no guarantees that we would come out safe or alive.

Opride.comThe Ethiopian government claims that you were actually filming OLF soldiers on Kenyan territory not inside Ethiopia. Not just that, there are also claims that you were using footages from years back for your propaganda. Is that true and what do you say to the detractors?

Y.J – I am not a Land Surveyor by training or otherwise but I can say with utmost authority that we shot the documentary inside Ethiopia south of Merga town. But since it was impossible to enter through Addis Ababa, we had to enter the Rebel Territory through Northern Kenya.

I was all over the footage eating and chatting with the rebels, so it would be outrageous to say it was taken way back in 2006. I think the Ethiopian government just felt obliged to react and try to spoil my name and reputation. I have no further comment on this particular issue and I would just say everyone is entitled to their opinion. The pictures speak for themselves…let the pictures speak on my behalf that I was there last June (2009).

Opride.comHow much of a culture shock did you experience upon meeting the soldiers? And some say you portrayed the rebels as cruel by showing…you know the blood, raw meat etc…

Y.J – We did experience some culture shock in the bush. There are footages we were unable to air because of time restraint. For example, our first breakfast in the bush the rebels fed me with their hands. It’s a weird thing to feed each other in Kenya so I couldn’t even use the footage where I was being fed by the rebels…but I learnt that it’s a norm in Ethiopia and among the Oromos.

We had to walk for miles, sleep on the ground, drink brown water, and learn basic Oromo like Akkam, galatomii, injirtu, injiraa. Like many, I was a bit taken off guard by the camel slaughter ceremony, the eating of raw meat, drinking of blood and water reserve. I had never seen that before and I had to share that with the rest of the world. My intention was not to portray them as cruel…these were real pictures. I was just portraying a day to day life of a rebel and that happened to be part of it.

Opride.comHow do you respond to the claim that your network (NTV) lacks integrity and was covertly working with OLF?

Y.J – NTV is a respected TV station with very high standards of professionalism. As I said before, The Nation Media Group, which owns NTV, is the biggest media house in East and central Africa and ranks amongst the best in Africa. Professional ethics require that we cover all sides so why not cover OLFs struggle? We requested for the Ethiopian government to give us their side of the story but they declined. In short, we were not working for any group rather reporting about a rebel struggle in our sub-region. Take us behind the screen, how much of your original work was altered due to the controversy? And can you talk about some of the editorial decisions you or your network made in deciding what to keep and what to cut?

Here is Part I & II. Part IV and the final segment of my candid interview with a Kenyan Journalist behind the making of “Inside Rebel Territory” would be available tomorrow. Stay tuned and please pass on the information to all those who might be interested to read. 





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Collaborative stories written or reported by OPride staff and contributors.

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