freedom remains elusive in Ethiopia
ABABA, May 1 (AFP) — Freedom of the press in Ethiopia has remained as
elusive as ever since the current government overthrew dictator Mengistu
Haile Mariam in May 1991, Ethiopian media experts and lawyers said ahead
of Monday’s World Press Freedom Day.
the current government came to power more than a decade ago, press freedom
has become increasingly elusive and the talk of it has only been for the
consumption of international donors and financial institutions to attract
their fundings," communications analyst Assefa Chewaka said.
government has used the press law to manipulate international donors and
financial institutions," Chewaka told AFP.
and even the people in power are newcomers to the idea of press freedom
but, nevertheless, this does not mean the core principles of press freedom
are not known within both circles," he explained.
opposition MP said the previous governments of the deposed Emperor Haile
Selassie and Mengistu had clear laws guaranteeing the right of expression,
"but still there was no free press, as such."
present government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has only allowed
circulation of newspapers and magazines as a smokescreen to its real
image," added the MP, who asked not to be named.
of newspapers went into print in May 1991 and subsequent years, but more
than 200 journalists have since been either arrested, exiled or killed.
without Borders said in its most recent annual report that Ethiopia’s
journalists "continue to work in very difficult conditions," and
government pressure on editors "reinforced self-censorship in the
have been released on parole after being detained, and could be imprisoned
at any moment. The authorities have still not taken the necessary steps to
open up broadcasting to the private sector," the international press
freedom advocate said.
Tsegaye, a former journalist-turned businessman said a "lack of
professionals and finance, in addition to heavy-handedness by the
authorities, have prevented Ethiopia from attaining the desired and most
needed goals of press freedom.
have been in and out of prisons for more than three years, for a simple
reason that I have reported ethnic clashes in southeast Ethiopia. I have
paid a price and, indeed, it is a small price I can pay to attain freedom
of expression in our society," Tsegaye said.
said many of his colleagues are now out of the media - some went into
exile while others are struggling with the few opportunities that exist.
reality, freedom of expression in Ethiopia is next to nil," he said.
Dawit Amedie agreed, citing a lack of professionals and a stifled cultural
outlook as the main obstacles to advancing press freedom.
alone society in general, we the so-called educated class have mixed
attitudes towards the principles of press freedom. We are poles apart, our
attitude is determined by the positions we hold," Amedie said.
so-called educated people are the ones who are unable to make a
difference, because whenever they secure a job in the government, they
abandon everything and join hands to criticize those who raise the issue,
and even try to curtail the freedom," Amedie said.
have to learn to be consistent, we should not be a chameleon that changes
its color with the surrounding, we the so-called educated have a role to
play if press freedom is to take root in the country," he added.
ranked a lowly 142nd out of 193 countries assessed for print, broadcast
and Internet freedom, according to a report by the New York-based Freedom
House watchdog group released Wednesday.
The report said Ethiopia ranked as "Not Free", in the same category as Angola, Djibouti, Iraq and Leban
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