The first foreign-language newspapers in Ethiopia

Though Ethiopia is one of the very few countries in Africa that have long history of writing, newspapers emerged in the country very late at the end of the 19th century. Emperor Minilik used to encourage his diplomats to learn foreign languages particularly French, English, Italian, German and Arabic.

In 1897 Emperor Minilik ordered the first Amharic printing press to be imported from France. In 1900, “Bulletin de la Leprosie de Harar”, a “polygraphed” periodical started to be published in Harar by the French Lazarist missionaries. In 1905, the publication name of the periodical was changed to “Le Semaine d’Ethiopie” (“The Ethiopian Weekly”) and continued publishing occasionally French and Amharic articles. In 1908, the periodical continued publication by moving to Dire Dawa until 1914.

In the mean time, the first Amharic newspaper, “Aimero” (“Intelligence”), was established in 1902 edited by a Greek editor, Andrea E.Kavidas. The newspaper continued till the Italian invasion of 1936. Another newspaper in French language “Le Courrier d’Ethiopia” (“The Ethiopian Newspaper”) was founded in 1913 by a Frenchman Alexis Desvages. This newspaper stopped publication during the second Ethio- Italian war.

The Italian legation in Addis Ababa started a newspaper in Amharic under the title “Ya Tor Ware” (“War news”) from 1916 to 1918. In 1917, a literary journal, “Goha Sebah” (“Down”) appeared edited by Heruy Walda Selassie, a prominent Ethiopian figure.

From 1926 to 1933 another newspaper (in German and French) was published under the title “Abessinien Korrespondanz” or “Correspondance d’Ethiopie” edited by an Austrian, Dr. Eric Weinzinger. Other newspapers and journals include “L’Ethiopie Commerciale” started in 1932 by a Greek, Christo Sakellaridis; “Il Notziario” in Italian in 1933; “Kesate Berhan” Journal in 1935; “Atbiya Kokeb” (“Star of the morning”) in 1935; “Banderachen” (“Our Flag”) newspaper in 1941. In 1941, additional newspapers started to be published. These were “The Ethiopian Herald” in English, “Sandak Alamachen” “Our Flag” in Amharic and Arabic; “Il Lunedi del Medio Oriente” in Italian, and “L’Ethiopie d’Aujourd’hui” in French and Amharic.

Source by Dr. Wondwosen Teshome Department of Anthropology, University of Vienna

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