HRW Accuses Woyane for Journalist Crackdown Ahead of Elections

January 22nd, 2015 Print Print Email Email

A new report by Human Rights Watch accuses the Ethiopia’s government of systematically cracking down on media ahead of the May 2015 elections. The report, released Thursday, details how Ethiopia has restricted independent reporting since 2010.

Researcher Felix Horne says there are patterns of government abuses against independent journalists.

“After articles are written, harassment comes from government officials, security officials and cadres in the form of threatening phone calls and SMS messages [text messages] and in person visits trying to get the individual to tone down the writings to comply with government perspectives on different issues,” Horne notes. “The next level is threats and harassment against family members, quite often arbitrary detention to intimidate and to pressure the journalist into censoring their writings. If that doesn’t work, the next step seems to involve criminal charges.”

According to the report, “Journalism Is Not A Crime”, six independent publications closed down in 2014 because of government pressure, 22 journalist, bloggers and publishers were criminally charged and more than 30 journalist fled the country. Most journalists are charged under the widely criticized anti-terrorism proclamation. Currently there is a high profile terrorism case going on in Ethiopia against bloggers of the Zone9 group.

HRW says the repression described in the report is leading to self-censorship. The rights group also claims that citizens and junior government officials are afraid of speaking to media, out of concern of being disciplined.

Horne says the repression has led to a reality where alternative views about the upcoming elections are rarely discussed in the media.

“It is crucial and critical that there will be a vibrant and flourishing independent media that can contribute to the political discourse and the political dialogue within the country that can provide critical information and critical analysis about the political issues of the day,” Horne says. ” But sadly, given the decimation of private media that we’ve seen since 2010, that’s just not happening.”

The ruling party, which has been in power since 1991, won over 99 percent of the votes in the 2010 elections, with only one parliament seat going to the opposition.

Responding to the report’s accusations, Getachew Redda, Special Advisor to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister said “HRW had lost their credibility long time ago, even by their own supporters, so there is no point for us to respond to their remarks.”

Asked about the issue of imprisoned journalist, Redda responded that “You can be anything, a journalist or pretending to be a journalist, but being involved in criminal activity is still a crime and they will be held responsible.”

HRW is calling on the Ethiopian government to release those imprisoned journalist and bloggers and to amend legislation such as the anti-Terrorism proclamation.

  1. ObserVer
    | #1

    Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

    HRW and BBC were known for being hidden racist institutions. No African with right mind will buy any fabricated story coming out of these known racist institutions.

  2. Darewos
    | #2

    The TPLF is an ethnical fascist front and will not allow free press and freedom of expression. Fascism is the main enemy of the free press and freedom of expression. The TPLF leaders began their crackdown on the free press and independent journalists years ago when they enforced their press laws. The free press can expose their lies and deceptions including their false growth figures. That is why the TPLF leaders are treating the free press and free journalists as their main enemies. The TPLF is now dealing a blow to the opposition parties it has given permissions to operate in the country.

  3. ሹመትና ትምህርት አገልግሎትና አርዓያነት
    | #3

    Human rights የሚሉት ሁሉ እውነት ነው አላመቸውም የተቀደሰ ነው
    ነገር ግን የሶስተኛ አለም መሪዎች በገንዘብ በመሳሪያ የሚደገፉት በበለጸጉት አገሮች መንግስታትና ኮርፖሬሽኖች ነው
    መርዶ አርጂና ሙሾ አውራጅ የሞተውን አይመልስም የአፍሪካ ዲክታተሮች የመንግስት እውቅና የሚያገኙት ከበለጸጉት አገሮች ስለሆነ እውነት ሙሾ በማረግ ነጻነት ይገኛል ብላችሁ አብሮ የሚያስተዛዝንስ መገኘቱ ማለታችሁ ነው?

  4. Kassahun
    | #4

    ….indeed, it is a great news for Ethiopia.

    Ethiopia’s economy growing in double degit for the past decade, and according world bank latest news that poverty had decrease by 33% in Ethiopia since year 2000.
    Of course I give this credit to Ethiopia’s successful government/EPRDF.

  5. Anwar
    | #5

    The Human Rights Watch is the true friend of the oppressed and marginalized citizens of Ethiopia. My usual appreciation and thanks to the organization for its superb job in defending human rights in the world.

  6. Yeiletworq Gebreabe
    | #6

    1. “Ethiopians in the Diaspora need to further consolidate their efforts
    and do their part for the efficient implementation of the GTP, a plan which
    aims at extricating the country out of poverty.”
    February 2011 H.E. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

    “Ethiopians in the Diaspora should contribute their share, so that they can
    enjoy a life time experience at the success that the country
    will register at the completion of the ongoing five year GTP.”
    January 2011
    H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn
    Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

    Meaning Ethiopians in the diaspora need to report their remmitance amount to the Ethiopian government when they give money to their family members and friends in Ethiopia .The income of those receiving money assistance from the diaspora need to be taxed by the government.

  7. Mame
    | #7

    CPJ, Rights Groups Slam Dawit Kebede; NED Stops Funding

    Posted on 27 January 2015. Tags: Awramba Times, CPJ, Dawit Kebede, Ethiopia, NED, Rights Groups

    Dawit Kebede, editor of Awramba Times, with his boss, Bereket Simon, the notorious jailer of Ethiopian journalists

    Widely suspected as a TPLF undercover agent, Dawit Kebede (right), editor of Awramba Times, was reportedly “forced into exile” with a mission to sowing division among the pro-democracy Ethiopian Diaspora. Exposed, Dawit flew back to the fold of TPLF in Addis, and now poses for a photo with his boss, Bereket Simon, the notorious jailer of Ethiopian journalists

    By Tamru Ayele,

    THE Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Oakland Institute (OI) and Survival International (SI) have strongly rejected and condemned Dawit Kebede’s recent claims against several global advocacy groups.

    The groups said such an irresponsible and unsubstantiated allegation that has no factual basis is not expected of someone who claims to be a journalist committed to informing others.

    Dawit Kebede, who was one of the four recipients of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 2010, recently appeared on the state-run ETV and accused CPJ, Oakland Institute , Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Rivers, Survival International and the International Crisis Group of being tools of imposing Western hegemony.

    “These organizations are part of an overall allegiance to control the world under one single ideology,” he had asserted.

    – – – – – – –
    ALSO READ : CPJ Press Freedom ‘Hero’ Says Right Groups are Tools for Western Hegemony
    – – – – – – –

    Sue Valentine, CPJ Africa Program Coordinator,said in a statement that CPJ was very disappointed with Kebede’s unwarranted attacks.

    “We were hurt and disappointed when we read articles summarizing a television interview with Dawit in which he was critical of CPJ.”

    Valentine indicated that CPJ had requested Kebede to clarify his allegations, but blamed it on inaccurate translation. CPJ had the 28-minute long interview translated and verified that the former press freedom hero had indeed tried to defame the reputable defender of press freedom with allegations that are contrary to the missions of the organization. CPJ also campaigned for the release of Kebede when he was unjustly incarcerated in 2005.

    “CPJ honored Dawit Kebede based on his journalistic work prior to 2010,” Valentine noted. “Based on his recent TV interview, he appeared to have changed his views. We do not know why, but he is obviously entitled to his opinion. However, CPJ strongly rejects any suggestion that we seek to impose a ‘Western hegemony’ on other countries and continents. CPJ’s sole mandate is to defend the right of all journalists to express their views and to report the news freely,” she added.

    According to Valentine, CPJ’s Africa Program defends the right of all journalists working on the continent to report news and express opinions freely and independently, without pressure from governments, big businesses or any other interest groups.

    Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, said on her part that making unsubstantiated allegations without substantiating them with facts is not expected of a journalist.

    “My advice, despite all obstacles and human rights abuses in a repressive regime, stay true to your profession of journalism. Like the Oakland Institute, whose mission is to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues, do not take things for granted. Research objectively and independently, questioning the official discourse of both governments and NGOs, but seek the truth for yourself,” she said.

    “If we were controlled by Western governments, our work would not have exposed and challenged the support of the USAID and Dfid of Ethiopia’s “development” strategy and ignoring of human rights abuse. Our work and methodology speaks for itself and we cannot take seriously every allegation made by a journalist who has now made up with a regime that abuses its own citizens. Let us not forget that, according to the CPJ, 17 journalists are still languishing in the jails while hundreds fled and now live in exile,” she added.

    Mittal pointed out that unlike Kedebe’s allegations, all of OI’s reports clearly mention the methodology used and evidence provided to substantiate the allegations of human rights abuses, forced displacement that are being carried out in Ethiopia.

    “This work has been carried out through extensive field work in the communities impacted, often at great risk to the researchers. We have also provided documentation such as the recordings and transcripts from investigations carried out by the donors. So this is not about our word against Mr. Kedebe’s words. This is about who has the proof,” Mittal said.

    With regard to accusations that organisations like OI are attempting to impede development in Ethiopia, she said that forced displacement of communities from their lands and livelihoods cannot be justified as development.

    “Ethiopia’s food security is based on food aid and other development aid while it gives away its resources to foreign investors. You don’t need a rocket scientist that this is not development, but a destructive policy in action that will make the country dependent on foreign aid, destroy local communities and their livelihoods and food security, and usher in insecurity and conflicts,” the OI chief noted.

    Alice Bayer, Press Officer at Survival International, explained that Survival is an international organization with supporters in about 80 countries around the world, including Ethiopia and China, and defends the rights of tribal peoples that have developed ways of life that are largely self-sufficient and extraordinary diverse.

    “Our only goal is for these ways of life to be respected. Of course, this means that we stand for many different ideologies, and tribal peoples’ right to live by them. The Ethiopian government stands guilty of imposing its aggressive ideology, on the tribes of the Omo Valley, who merely wish to be allowed to live their lives as they choose and not have ‘development’ projects violently forced upon them,” she said.

    Funded by their supporters and independent funding sources, the advocacy groups never accept any funding from government agencies.

    Meanwhile, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which supports democratic institutions around the world, has disclosed that it discontinued funding Awramba Times due to concerns after supporting it between 2011 to 2014.

    Jane Jacobsen, NED’s Senior Director, Public Affairs said that the Endowment funded Awramba Times to produce and disseminate content that promotes good governance, transparency, rule of law, human rights and the importance of democratic institutions.

    “In light of concerns that Awramba Times was not meeting the above project objectives NED discontinued its funding in January 2014.”

    According to its annual report, NED’s funding beneficiaries in Ethiopia include Center for International Private Enterprise ($527,008), Debebe ($195,260) and Temesgen Law Office ($72,000), Forum for Social Studies, Peace and Development Center (?) , and Vision Ethiopian Congress for Democracy ($34,992).

    The TPLF-led regime has repeatedly accused NED of funding groups and individuals bent on overthrowing the government. Ironically, Mimi Sebhatu, a vocal defender of tyranny in Ethiopia, was one of the recipients of NED’s money. In 2011 Kebede had fled Ethiopia and told CPJ that he had been targeted by pro-government media outlets and Mimi Sebhat, whom he accused of attacking him on her station, Zami FM Radio.

    A few years ago, Mimi Sebhatu received $26,740 from NED while Kebede received $36,000 annually from 2011-2014, according to public records. In an ironic twist, both Mimi and Dawit are now attacking individuals and organizations, including CPJ and NED, that expose gross human rights violations in Ethiopia. They are currently funded by the TPLF-led tyrannical regime, reliable sources say.


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