Yahoo International Fellow Abebe Gellaw slams Zenawi for keeping nation in darkness – By H Daniel
Silicon Valley, CA, May 6, 2009: Yahoo International Fellow Abebe Gellaw has criticized Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for putting the nation in darkness in the information age by closing down newspapers, filtering the Internet and jamming shortwave radio broadcasts. (more…)
Silicon Valley, CA, May 6, 2009: Yahoo International Fellow Abebe Gellaw has criticized Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for putting the nation in darkness in the information age by closing down newspapers, filtering the Internet and jamming shortwave radio broadcasts. Speaking at Yahoo Business and Human Rights Summit held yesterday at the company’s corporate headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, Abebe, highlighted the efforts of the “one-man” government to block the free flow of information in Ethiopia.
“They are trying to make information inaccessible to the people they love to abuse. There is no freedom of expression in Ethiopia. Anyone who criticises the ruling elite is considered enemy of the state and faces risks of being jailed, tortured or killed,” Abebe said.
Abebe, also a Knight Fellow at Stanford University, told the gathering that the tyrannical regime still monopolizes the state media funded by poor Ethiopian taxpayers only to disseminate its propaganda. According to Abebe, the ruling party controls “the only national TV station, the only national radio station, the only two daily newspapers and the only Internet and telephony service provider in the country.” The state owned Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation enjoys an absolute monopoly in Internet and telephone service provision. Abebe indicated that the telecom industry is protected from free market competition in a bid to control the flow of information in the country.
He said that Ethiopians were losing their voices as the repressions were getting worse with each passing day. “Freedom is worth sacrificing for and so many Ethiopians have been paying a heavy price for standing up for the truth. The rulers, who feel that the truth will eventually indict them, are on the wrong side of history making futile efforts to hide the reality. People who make sacrifices to tell the truth are on the right side of history and should be supported to keep critical voices alive.”
Abebe also criticized the Bush Administration for making a “bloody tyrant” a key ally in the war on terror. The administration turned blind eyes to the repressions and terrorism unleashed by the regime in Ethiopia especially in the aftermath of the stolen national elections. “The US should act responsibly when it comes to forming alliances because bloody tyrants can make matters worse as proven in Somalia,” he said.
The exiled journalist feels that HR2003, which was unanimously endorsed by Congress, was a lost opportunity. He blamed DLA Piper, which takes $50000 a month to lobby for the Ethiopian government for making a concerted effort to kill the bill in the US Senate. He expressed hope that the Obama administration would rectify the blunders of its predecessor by seriously rethinking its policies toward Ethiopia and the entire Horn of Africa sub-region.
Moderated by Rebecca Mackinnon, co-founder of Global Voices and former CNN Bureau Chief in Beijing, the panel also highlighted the threats posed by repressive regimes against the free flows Information, which is the basic concept behind the World Wide Web.
Co-founder and Executive Director of Ushahidi and Harvard law school graduate, Ory Okolloh, told the conference that ordinary citizens have been making an impact on the Internet. Volunteers for Ushahidi, which has developed open source software, have been using the Internet in creative ways to raise awareness on crisis situations around the most volatile parts of the world, according to her.
Bahraini journalist Amiral Al Hussaini also spoke on Internet censorship in the Middle East while popular Indian blogger Gaurav Mishra, who is the Yahoo Fellow in International Values, Communications, Technology and Global Internet at Georgetown University dealt with issues related the role of citizen journalists in the face of current trends.
Panellists representing the Global Network Initiative, formed by Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and other stake holders, to press for rights of freedom of expression in the face of pressures from repressive governments have discussed ways of making the Internet more open.
Lesly Harris, President and CEO of Center for Democracy and Technology, underlined the need to reach out to more stake holders to have a real impact in promoting freedom of expression and privacy on the Internet throughout the world.