Rebecca Iyob is a young, confident, and professional anchor and consultant at the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporate (EBC). Having recently returned from maternity leave, which is stressful enough to anchor a daily news on its own merit, she anchors French news on the EBC 3 to 4 times per week.Needless to say, Rebecca, the former head of the French department at Ethiopian Radio & Television Agency (ERTA), loves a challenge. Since 2007, from the time of its inception, in which she played a major role in the launch, the French program on Ethiopian Television is getting quite an audience and Rebecca has become one of the most recognized news personalities in the channel.
When I met her last week in Harambe Hotel, she said light-heartedly that she felt awkward; as she is used to being the interviewer, not being the one subject of the interview itself. During her journalistic career which spans fifteen years, she has interviewed hundreds of prominent leaders, politicians, business owners from Ethiopia and abroad. Among her interviewees have been the Moroccan King Mohammed VI, Former French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dominique de Villepin, the former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, former AU Commission Chair Person and former President of the Republic of Mali Alpha Omer Konare, current President of Djibouti Omar Gelee and many more.
She is known among her colleagues as energetic and one with tremendous work ethic. When I asked her about the challenges of being a female journalist, her first reply was to be respected as a professional doing her job, not just a woman doing a job. She says many women have the tendency to put themselves in an inferior position. “I am against that. I am against this talk of the right of women. Men and women are equal. It is how you live it and how you act it.” She says when the situation calls for it, she could be stronger than men. “When I was in school, I was a leader. Anywhere, I have always been a leader. You face challenges in life but it all depends on your approach.”
Rebecca credits her parents and her supportive husband with instilling in her the importance of keeping informed on world issues and current events. Born in 1978 in Addis Ababa, Rebecca Iyob spent several years of her childhood in Saudi Arabia, USA, Switzerland and Djibouti. That, she says was a result of her father’s work. Her father Iyob Mamo was director of the Franco-Ethiopian Railway. He first moved to Djibouti until he gave up his post due to disagreements with the Derg military regime, he then, headed to Saudi Arabiya and stared working for Saudi Airlines. Rebecca attended an American International school in Jeddah. Then the family moved again to US where they stayed in Chicago for a year. In Switzerland, then in Djibouti where Rebecca went to a French school before she and her family returned to Addis Ababa. Starting from seventh grade, she attended high school at Lycée Guebre-Mariam and after her graduation, headed to Paris to study journalism at the Ecole Supérieure de Journalisme where she learned about the theories of communication and media. Straight out of the university, she returned to Ethiopia and began her career as a Reporter and editor as well as to host the French service of Radio Ethiopia in 1999, doing everything from production to reading the news.
The aim of the former Ethiopia Radio was to target the French, Francophones and Francophiles living in Addis Ababa and around the country. She took on the reporting job with great excitement and vigour. However she recalls that although the journalists did not obtain official journalism accreditation, she discovered that most were self-educated and accomplished as journalists within their rights. All had much passion for the job and were surprisingly motivated. However “My biggest challenge was getting along with people. First thing, my upbringing is totally different. The work atmosphere was not always very dynamic. There was a lot of reluctance and lack of confidence and drive.” But she loves coming back with a bang and she had to keep going. “I think you gain perspective as time passes and you become more and more patient. So what’s annoyed me years ago is not an issue today. Every day I develop a sense of openness and optimism. After all, I’m very lucky I get to do the journalism work and get paid for it.” Rebecca feels Ethiopia can be a complicated and tough place at times, but there’s always innocence, kindness and a surprising opportunity for hard working people. She is a proponent of the famous JKF saying “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.
In 2002, she went back to Paris to attend “Fondation Journaliste En Europe” for her MASTER I. There, she specialized in European Union Development reporting where she learned the history, politics, economy, development of European Union countries, which also gave her the chance to travel to many European cities. Returning to Ethiopia, she continued working for radio Ethiopia and mastering the ropes of the news business. Rebecca honed her skill as a reporter and solidified her interview style. Having a bigger a picture in mind, she also started thinking about the prospects of filing news reports for the print media and the opportunity came with the Paris-based La Gazette, becoming its correspondent. When she later moved to the US to give birth to her first child, she continued working as correspondent for La Gazette where she filed reports and covered the presidential election on George Bush’s second US presidential election.
Rebecca had hosted various international reportage including an interview with Mr Oumaru, the famous Initiative Business Africa Network’s exclusive reporter and presenter, an informative and renowned show highlighting the everyday lives of different kinds of people around Les Champs Elysées in Paris.
In 2007, along with her boss, Ato Solomon Tesfaye whom she respects a great deal, she launched a French program on ERTA where she has become a regular face, presenting news, commentary and analysis for an hour twice a day. As a department head, she introduced a number of innovations and trained newly recruited reporters, inviting people from Radio France International.
The French service on the radio which run from 8 pm to 9 pm was later replaced by 30-minute day time program in FM 97.1 to reach a wider audience. Now the French service has moved to FM 104.7 exclusively dedicated to foreign languages, transmitting three hours of French slot every day. The two hours relayed from Radio France International is transmitted direct from Paris, while one hour is a program prepared by local staff here in Addis Ababa. According to Rebecca, this has received lots of constructive feedback.
In addition to her anchoring duties, she went on fields to report on major news stories, reporting from hotspots such as the Ethio-Eritrean war in Bademe, she travelled on train from Dire Dawa to Djibouti and also did major covering on the Somalia region refugee camps and Afar region pastoral way of life.
Rebecca these days, is a very sought-after conference interpreter at the African Union, Economic Commission for Africa and European Union, among others. This she says was thanks to her experience at the then Ethiopia Radio. She especially gives thanks, in this regard to, Pascal Alexandre, Solomon Tesfaye, M. Tesfaye W/Michael and Meles Ida. At the start of her career at Radio Ethiopia, she was obliged to translate stories either from English or Amharic sources. She used to complain that she was not there to translate, rather to report. Her boss, Pascal Alexander would tell her that one day it would be of great help to her. And just as he said, today she found it a highly rewarding job. She has high hopes in the future of EBC, with what she describes as excellent and visionary leadership of people like Ato Berhan Kidane Mariam CEO of EBC and Ato Abrahem G/Medhin, vice CEO of EBC.
Does she thinks Africa is accurately represented in Western media? “I think that the western media talk about Africa in accordance with their interest. They show only the angle which fits well their interest and which sells good which means that they don’t talk about the reality on the African continent. They tend to focus on the negative aspect of the continent.”
Does she feels there is need for more African voices telling their own stories instead of people in the West telling Africa’s stories for them? “Yes I truly believe that Africans are best placed to talk about the continent and there are very good African reporters who do so but unfortunately they are not well exposed.”