Press Release: Freedom of expression still in peril – Former Prisoners of Conscience
Two years have now elapsed since the clampdown of Ethiopia’s once vibrant independent press. (more…)
Two years have now elapsed since the clampdown of Ethiopia’s once vibrant independent press. However, in accordance with the public pronouncements of the government that it is finally prepared to untangle this shame on our nation, and as per the decrees of the constitution and press law, we, three journalists imprisoned in connection with the post election crises, have submitted legal petitions for press licenses.
Having established new publishing houses, Medrek PLC and Senae PLC, and fulfilled all the legal requirements, the processing and approval of our applications for two new newspapers,Lualawi and Habesha, should have taken no more than a few hours.
Yet, we were told that our case warrants special consideration, and a promise was given to us that a decision would be made by October 25 2000.But it was not to be. Yet another appointment for November 1 2000 was given to us after being told that the head of the licensing department, Ato Zemedkun Tekle, would confer with us and review our case in person.
On the day of the appointment, however, two calls were placed to us by officials of the Ministry of Information and told that the appointment with the department head had been cancelled. We were also informed that the decision will be conveyed to us over the telephone, and despite our pleas to the contrary they obdurately refused to specify when the decision will be made.
Refusing to give up, we went to MI on two subsequent dates, but on both instances we were denied the licenses that are our due by right and law of the land, pending a formal decision by unspecified officials. It should be noted that in all our encounters with officials of the government, there was lucid admission that no legal barrier stands in the way of our press licenses.
The refusal of the government to issue us licenses should be considered from the perspective of the local elections that are scheduled to be held this year. A free and fair election is not possible without the presence of a fiercely independent and responsible press serving as watchdog. In addition, the promise by the government that the full democratic rights of all those imprisoned in connection with the post election crises is now in serious jeopardy.
We thus call on all interested parties to plead with the Ethiopian government to uphold the dictates of the Ethiopian constitution and press law as regards the right of freedom of expression.
Former publisher of Ethiop and Abay newspapers
Co-Publisher, Senae PLC
Former publisher of Menelik,Asqual and Satenaw newspapers
Co-Publisher, Senae PLC