Freedom of expression in the eyes my pro-Woyanne “Ethiopian-American” friend By Kiflu Hussain
One pro-Woyanne1 friend of mine, who has been living in America for over two decades, cited Addis Fortune Newspaper as a testimony to the existence of freedom of speech in Ethiopia.
Although, I can’t say Addis Fortune is a paper affiliated with Woyanne which is launched to give a semblance of freedom of the press like Amare Aregawi’s The Reporter and lately like Samson Mamo’s Ethio-Channel, I can confidently claim that the paper is not independent. On the rarest occasion the paper appears to be critical of the régime, it takes extraordinary precaution to hide behind jargons that means nothing to the general reader. It invariably picks softer and outdated issues by dwelling on quasi-officials who are at the bottom of the rung in the pecking order. What’s more, even if the paper was truly independent that covers issues without fear or favor, it still serves little purpose in promoting free speech in Ethiopia.Why?because it’s a paper written in a language that the majority of Ethiopians don’t understand including University grads supposedly learnt and wrote their dissertation in English. There is also the factor of the literacy rate, coupled with poor reading culture that even papers published in the national language face without mentioning the prohibitive price due to the regime’s deliberate hiking of printing prices.
Meanwhile, the regime has made sure that no independent electronic media goes into the Ethiopian air. It has also effectively blocked various independent and critical websites including VOA,Committee to Protect Journalists/CPJ/etc.In the spirit of “rob Peter to pay Paul,” using money from Western donors, the regime buys Chinese technology and expertise to jam airwaves of those that broadcast in the national language of Ethiopia such as VOA and Deutschewelle.The latest victim of this costly exercise of repression is a television network launched by patriotic and professional Ethiopians from America.Worse,the Meles Zenawi regime has begun its seasonal brutal crackdown on independent journalists. As a result, deputy editor of Awramba Times, Woubshet Taye and a columnist for FITIH/Equity/ newspaper, Ms.Reiot Alemu landed in the notorious detention center known as Maekelawi.
Of course, all this is not lost on the former kid from my former neighborhood, currently my Face book friend. It’s just a classic case in line with our proverb that says “No matter how you nudge a person who pretends to be asleep, you will not succeed to wake him up.” Whatever motive propels my friend into the folds of Woyanne, I would like to leave him with two choices to pick one, exercising his “democratic”right.The choices may appear to be platitudes due to repetitive citation.Yet, they are timeless precious words.
“Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.”
“Fear not to be a coward, a traitor, a renegade. In this universe of ours, there is room for all, perhaps even need for all.”
1. Woyanne is an Amharic/Tigrigna word indicating rebellion. It was first used some five decades ago when Tigrayan peasants revolted against Hailesellasie’s feudal régime. When the current rulers went into the bush espousing divisive ethnic politics by using the word “Woyanne”they defiled the word and linked it with something derogatory.Hence, as the military regime of Mengistu H/Mariam was referred as Derg despite its claim of transformation to a civilian republic, it remained Derg, although the word like Woyanne was just another harmless word.
An Ethiopian Human Rights Defender based in Uganda