Letter to prime minister about government’s refusal to licence two new newspapers – Reporters without borders

January 7th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Reporters Without Borders wrote to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi yesterday asking him to reconsider the information ministry’s refusal to approve applications made by three journalists to register two new weekly newspapers, Lualawi and Habesha. (more…)

Reporters Without Borders wrote to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi yesterday asking him to reconsider the information ministry’s refusal to approve applications made by three journalists to register two new weekly newspapers, Lualawi and Habesha.

The requests for licences were submitted in September by Serkalem Fasil, the former editor of three weeklies that are now closed (Menelik, Asqual and Satenaw), her husband Eskinder Nega, the former owner of the now dissolved Serkalem Publishing Enterprise, and Sisay Agena, the former publisher of Ethiop, another weekly that was forced to close.

“The release of journalists and government opponents in 2007 was a significant step towards national reconciliation and the healing of the wounds caused by the violent protests against the election results in November 2005,” the letter said. “With the prospect of another election in 2008, we would like to point out that, just as political pluralism is essential for democracy, so media pluralism offers everyone a platform to express themselves legally and thereby helps to safeguard public order and social peace.”

When the three journalists filed their applications, all the legal requirements had been met and the licences should have been issued within a few hours. However, a ministry employee told them their case required detailed examination and that they would get a reply by 25 October.

This deadline was not met. Instead, they were given an appointment for 1 November with the promise that the head of the licensing department, Zemedkun Tekle, would receive them in person. On 1 November, they were told the meeting had been cancelled and that they would be notified of the ministry’s decision by phone. They finally learned on 1 January that the ministry had refused their applications without any explanation.

“The government is worried about the coming elections,” Eskinder said. “The decision to throw opposition leaders and journalists in jail in 2005 set off such a wave of unpopularity that now it fears the consequences. By refusing to issue us licences, the government is trying to intimidate the opposition and voters. The aim is for the elections to take place without any strong and independent press around to comment and monitor respect for democratic procedures.”

Eskinder, Serkalem and Sisay were arrested at the end of November 2005 at the same time as many human rights and civil society activists and members of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, the main opposition alliance, in a government crackdown on the deadly rioting that followed the disputed results of legislative elections held in May of that year.

Accused by Prime Minister Meles of “launching an insurrection,” the three journalists were charged with genocide, high treason and tyring to overthrow constitutional rule. After a year of legal proceedings, the federal high court in Addis Ababa acquitted the journalists of all charges on 9 April 2007. Serkalem had meanwhile given birth in prison in 2006.

Political Humor on the charging of independent journalists

  1. Mossese
    | #1

    Hammm… free press or free ride

    I do not see any free press but i do remember free riding of kinijit to fatal distraction? If you do not remember this, what the government has done is perfect. I don’t think they deserve an answer. Repent and commit your self for true democracy then and onlt then the answer will be revealed for you.

    Once again, this is my humble advice for you. You can choose what ever road you may wish to hike but the only salvation that will deliver you from your nightmare is repentance.

    No more free ride in the name of free press

  2. Musie
    | #2


    Please chang your name cos you are Dedeb and do not deserve to have this name


  3. Mossese
    | #3


    You smell like kinijit, better clean up your stink foul mouth before you open it. Need tooth brush?

    Melkam Ken

  4. free press
    | #4


    In America if you kill a person and served your jail term… this doesn’t mean they will alow you to own GUN…

    In Ameirca if you hack the online banking they will take away your computer even if you served your TIME.

    IN Ameirca if you rape a child and you served your TIME they will not allow you to be alone with child again.

    you see my point those so called FREE PRESS REPORTER WERE HATE MONGER AND CAUSED THE DEATH of 200 people now you are telling us to give them the same tool that the used to kill even after they served their time they should be baned for newspaper they can work as any other comman Ethiopia but not news paper we will not take risk on them

  5. selam
    | #5

    Free press ,
    1.Before commenting on any idea I think you should know how to write the correct english gramer and writting style.
    2. I don’t understand what you are talking about. You are telling us complete lie. I don’t expect such igrnorant idea from someone living in America where free press is relativerly respected and citziens are realy free enough to express their idea. Do you realy believe their is press fredom in Ethiopia. Just think the truth and speak the the reality.

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