In Ethiopia, zenawi’s words, actions not in step – By Mohamed Hassim Keita(CPJ)

June 27th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

This week, in an exclusive interview with the Financial Times, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi suggested that the press in his country freely expresses dissent. (more…)

This week, in an exclusive interview with the Financial Times, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi suggested that the press in his country freely expresses dissent. In fact, that is hardly the case. The Horn of Africa nation remains one of the world’s worst backsliders of press freedom.

Asked whether a series of recent arrests of political dissidents and legislation on civil society organizations and terrorism had “contributed to an atmosphere where people do not feel free to speak,” the prime minister responded: “Have you read the local newspapers? Do they mince their words about government?”

A multitude of private, political newspapers filled the newsstands in the capital, Addis Ababa–until November 2005. Then, in the midst of deadly unrest following disputed elections, authorities imprisoned the editors of these publications on antistate charges, blaming the violence on their headlines. The government either banned the titles or induced enough fear that printers were dissuaded from printing the newspapers.

When I put the prime minister’s response to Dawit Kebede, who launched the weekly Awramba Times after spending nine months in prison for his critical coverage in 2005, he chuckled softly. “The facts and his argument are totally opposite,” he said, citing self-censorship among the handful of authorized private newspapers venturing into current affairs coverage these days. “Before the 2005 elections, there were a lot of newspapers. Today, we can say there are may be two or three genuinely independent (political) newspapers for a population of 80 million.” Independent in this sense means media outlets not owned by the government or its supporters.

The comments of the prime minister (who, by the way, also told the Financial Times he wants to step down if his supporters will let him) are often out of step with his government’s actions. “I don’t think people have any qualms about criticizing the government or rejecting its policies, or expressing dissenting views in any way,” the business weekly Addis Fortune quoted him as saying in 2007. Yet, since then, the government has threatened, harassed, and imprisoned journalists, blocked the distribution of newspapers and access to Web sites. Speaking to Newsweek in April 2008, Zenawi said the government was enacting “a new press law that we very much hope will put our legislation on par with the best in the world.” Instead, the law was hastily passed with repressive statutes that fall well short of international standards.

In 2007, Zenawi declared that pardons issued to imprisoned journalists and dissidents showed the government had “no sense of revenge.” Its tolerance, though, is limited: The government has denied licenses to three publishers who were among those once imprisoned.

Other independent journalists in Addis Ababa spoke to me on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals–a practice that has apparently become the norm for many of their sources. “If you want to interview a university lecturer (on a sensitive issue), one of the first things you hear is, ‘Don’t mention my name. I don’t want to say these things in public,’” according to one veteran reporter. “Always we say ‘person doesn’t want his name to be mentioned.’ It’s a challenge.” Another reporter told me that this practice has led some readers to doubt the credibility of stories in the newspapers. “The government always says they’re trying to be transparent and make a comfortable environment for media. Practically it’s not the case,” the veteran reporter said.

  1. Teshome
    | #1

    It is amazing how we became a willing propagator for Meles and his stooges. They start talking about free press—we start our taking point what they say and what they didn’t do. We know for fact that their ethnocentric political policy can not go hand in hand with Democratic systems of independence of court and free press. That is a fact. Their showmanship only serves one purpose that is they have to charm the western institution to keep the money flowing. If we take about what TPLF is doing, about their policies, both political and economical dominance of one minority Ethnic group against all the others, how the military, the financial institution are fully controlled by Tigiran People Liberation Front ethnic juntas, than we will give a clear picture of what is going on in Ethiopia. We know the parliament is a phony parliament who changes the law of the country in two days at the command of Meles. We know all that but we are taking about election, parliament, etc. We need to stop trapping ourselves; we are deceiving our self and those international organizations who want to help us expose TPLF for what it is.

  2. ሱራፊል መላኩ
    | #2

    I know this administration did not do good in everything aspect of want/need of ethiopian people. But mentioning every little bad stuff and not giving credit to the good stuff they have done its absurd. You can write what went wrong every time, but what good is that do!?! Nothing. If you can provide solution, if you acknowledge the good stuff, i bet every body will be on your page, on your idea and such.

  3. Genanew
    | #3

    Woyane is the 21-century Apartheid existing only in Ethiopia. As apartheid was abolished after lots of sacrifices have been paid, the woyane apartheid will never go away without all sorts of sacrifices are paid in many ways. Yes, Mandela and many others were in prison/hard labor in a cold and isolated islands fore decades. At last they became free and because of them their people also got freedom.

    We have to see Birtukan as our symbol fighting woyane against its apartheid policy. We don’t need to concentrate only for freedom. As long as this Tribalist Apartheid woyane is still there, her freedom will not have guarantee. Many more will continue subjecting to prison, killing and count loss woyanes crimes against humanity. Yes, she must be free now. But woyane the cancer must be eliminated. As long as they are there, there will be no freedom.

    Apartheid in SA and woyane in Ethiopia.

    Woyane policies are the exact copies from Apartheidn South Africa. These are few examples.

    Population Registration Act, Act No 30 of 1950
    Led to the creation of a national register in which every person’s race was recorded. A Race Classification Board took the final decision on what a person’s race was in disputed cases

    -Woyane is implementing the Apartheid race policy in South Africa with Ethnicity policy in Ethiopia.

    Group Areas Act, Act No 41 of 1950
    forced physical separation between races by creating different residential areas for different races. Led to forced removals of people living in “wrong” areas, for example Coloureds living in District Six in Cape Town.

    -Yes, woyane is implementing an apartheid policy with Kilil created illegally and wrongly by them.

    Bantu Authorities Act, Act No 68 of 1951
    Provided for the establishment of black homelands and regional authorities and, with the aim of creating greater self-government in the homelands, abolished the Native Representative Council.

    -This is the woyane kilil Agenda going on in Ethiopia.

    Natives Laws Amendment Act of 1952
    Narrowed the definition of the category of blacks who had the right of permanent residence in towns. Section 10 limited this to those who’d been born in a town and had lived there continuously for not less than 15 years, or who had been employed there continuously for at least 15 years, or who had worked continuously for the same employer for at least 10 years.

    -This is what is going on in the woyane Kilil. They are implementing an apartheid policy saying Natives and non Natives in Kilils level. If you are not a native, you are like an Immigrant who have no right as citizens in own country. Among the other, they cannot hold office related to the Kilil.

    Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act, Act No 46 of 1959
    Classified black people into eight ethnic groups. Each group had a Commissioner-General who was tasked to develop a homeland for each, which would be allowed to govern itself independently without white intervention

    -If you search more about the South African Apartheid policy, you would discover almost all woyane policies being the direct copies from it. Who is advising them? The English? I wonder.

  4. genet
    | #4

    It is so funny how idiotic you all sound! He can never be worst than you. I think the issue is that he showed you how to be democratic and he changed the fate of Ethiopia forever. Every ethinic group in Ethiopia will be equal from now on. No more going back. That is the main reason that is eating you alive. You go ahead cry and complain without a break. You will not get no where until you accept your lose and really work for the better of the real Ethiopia. Not the Ethiopia you have been barking about for the last 100+ years. The new Ethiopia is for everyone. She is starting from the scartch to build herself up higher from now on with God’s help. No more going back. What is so hard to accept reality and past mistakes and move forward for the sake of the country rather than bicker over your loss for the last 18 years.

    One thing is for sure. Everything you are doing and saying right now is going to hunt you in the future. Remember, you can even loss you dream Ethiopia if you are not careful of what you say and do. Not every Ethiopian can read differnet views and judge for themselves. They say everyword you say is taken for granted either it is positive or negative. Some of us are even wondering if there is a reason for the current Ethiopia to live as is. Because people like you either opposition or government supporter are more the reason for the division. I even say more so of the opposition and their supporter for the current disappointiment among people.

    Stop talking and saying nonsese. Focus on what makes us together (if you ever want that ever) than complain about our differnces for ever. Everything is what you make of it. Stop wasting time and energy on evil ideas. Honestily discusse issues. For example, discuss over the federal system in the current Ethiopia. Some of you instead of talking about the advantage and disadvantage about this issue, you are bent backward to discredit it. I believe the main reason why may be, you only want one ethinic group culture and language to become what you call united Ethiopia. Instead, get out of the maddness and really communicate and discuss with honesty how we can overcome our differences about this issue. Melse never brought division to Ethiopia. Ethiopia was never united by will (only by the burrel of gun) so please accept the truth and try to work on the future before it is too late. More than you know it, the opposition is dividing people than the govenment which all of us love to blame.

    Peace to the future Ethiopia.

  5. game plan!
    | #5

    Thank you for the evidence which proofs that what we have is
    ethnic apartheid. The similarity with fashism is also as alarming. This takes us to the next level of the criminal enterprise.
    Who are the authors of these systems, the answer is, the same power, or powers that placed them in poer in 1991, had the same experiment in
    Europe before the 2nd world war.
    The powers, have their sourse of strenght, in the narchotic trade, they have globalisation and the enslavement of the human race as their goal.
    Power and money.
    Globalization Equals Fascism:
    Organize a New Bretton Woods! from

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