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Ethiopia: Press Freedom
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Ethiopia: Press Freedom
Date Distributed (ymd): 961020
Contains (1) Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)--Press
(2) Excerpts from CPJ Report
COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS, 330 Seventh Ave, New York NY
10001, Tel: 212-465-1004; Fax:212-465-9568; E-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org; WWW: http://www.cpj.org
October 9, 1996
CONTACT: Kakuna Kerina; email@example.com
U.S. State Department Institutes Policy Change Toward
Ethiopian Press During Christopher's Visit to Addis Ababa
Policy Change Enacted After Review of CPJ Report Revealing
More Journalists Imprisoned in Ethiopia in Past Three Years
Than in Any Other African Country
New York--U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher today
declined the Ethiopian government's invitation to hold a joint
press conference upon his arrival in Addis Ababa. This, in
response to a report by the New York-based Committee to
Protect Journalists (CPJ) detailing the legal harassment and
imprisonment of Ethiopian journalists, and the government's
systematic exclusion of the private press from official press
conferences. State Department Spokesperson Nicholas Burns told
the Committee's chair, Kati Marton, that CPJ's report
"Clampdown in Addis: Ethiopia's Journalists at Risk" led to
the policy change.
In a public statement, Secretary of State Christopher told
reporters, "Ethiopia has made progress in human rights during
the past five years, but the United States wants to see more.
One of the areas of our concern is the freedom of the press
and the treatment of journalists."
CPJ's report is based on a fact-finding mission conducted last
May by Africa Program Coordinator Kakuna Kerina, who wrote the
report, and CPJ board member and Newsday U.N. bureau chief
Josh Friedman, who wrote the report's introductory essay.
Based on more than 50 interviews with government officials,
journalists and other sources, the report demonstrates how
independent journalists are regularly harassed, censored and
jailed under the provisions of a restrictive press law enacted
in 1992. The repressive climate exists despite promises of
press freedom made by the Transitional Government of Ethiopia
(TGE) in 1991 and by the recently elected Prime Minister Meles
Zenawi, who served as TGE president.
"Clampdown in Addis," which was released on October 7 -- the
day Ethiopia's Parliament reconvened to address key media
issues -- made several recommendations to the Meles
administration, and called on the United States and other
Western countries to take a more aggressive role in
encouraging the Ethiopian government to uphold guarantees of
"Secretary of State Christopher's position is a welcome step
toward what CPJ hopes will be a continued U.S. government
commitment to press freedom and support for Ethiopia's
independent journalists," said Kerina. "We look forward to the
time when the Ethiopian government views the private press as
an ally, not an enemy, in the democratic process."
To order copies of "Clampdown in Addis: Ethiopia's Journalists
at Risk," please call (212) 465-1004. Or, the text can also be
found at CPJ's World Wide Web site (http://www.cpj.org).
CPJ documents and responds to press freedom abuses around the
world. From its headquarters in New York, CPJ works to get
detained journalists out of jail, directs international
campaigns of protest against repressive governments, and
provides practical safety information to reporters assigned to
dangerous areas. CPJ is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization,
and does not accept any government funding.
Excerpts from CPJ, "Clampdown in Addis"
[The full report is located at
Table of Contents
Introductory Essay by Josh Friedman
Clampdown in Addis:
Ethiopia's Journalists at Risk
The Press Proclamation
and the Prosecution of Journalists
* Censorship and Libel
* Freedom of Information
The Private Press: The Challenges Facing Independent
The State Media: The Government Press and the Broadcast
Ushering Ethiopian Journalism into the 21st Century
Recommendations to the Ethiopian and U.S. Governments
* Distribution of Print Media
* Printing Presses
* The New Technologies
* Foreign Media Presence
* Professional Associations
* Attacks on the Press in Ethiopia, 1992-1996
* A List of Ethiopian Media
* Government Newspapers
* Government-run Broadcast Media and Wire Services
* Private Newspapers
* Private Magazines
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) thanks the many
reporters and editors who generously shared their time as we
conducted research for this report. We would also like to
thank the following Ethiopian government officials who
formally received CPJ to discuss our requests and concerns
about press freedom: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Justice
Minister Mahteme Solomon, and Speaker of Parliament Davit
Yohannes. CPJ is indebted as well to the representatives we
met with from local nongovernmental organizations, the
international diplomatic community, and international donor
agencies working on media-related issues in Ethiopia.
ABOUT THIS REPORT
In May 1996, CPJ Africa program coordinator Kakuna Kerina and
board member Josh Friedman conducted a 12-day fact-finding
mission to Ethiopia. The primary reasons for the mission were:
* The alarming fact that for three consecutive years,
Ethiopia has imprisoned more journalists than any other
* The mass arrests of journalists in 1995 for their coverage
of an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak as he attended an Organization of African Unity (OAU)
meeting in Addis Ababa, and on Ethiopia's former Communist
dictator Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, who is living in exile in
* A critical need for a firsthand analysis of the Ethiopian
media, especially in light of the unprecedented social and
political changes that have transpired in the five years since
Col. Mengistu's regime was overthrown and democratic elections
(albeit boycotted by the opposition) were held in 1995 for the
first time in the country's history.
CPJ held more than 50 in-depth discussions with journalists
from the private and state press, government officials, and
representatives of international donor agencies and local
nongovernmental organizations. It is important to note that in
most of those informative and often lengthy discussions,
numerous government officials and private citizens spoke on
the condition of anonymity.
CPJ is releasing this report on Oct. 7, 1996--the day
Ethiopia's Parliament reconvenes--to focus attention on
important media issues that legislators will address, such as
an update on the Press Proclamation No. 34/1992, a restrictive
press law enacted in 1992; the establishment of a media
committee within the Parliament; the creation of a press
council and a government Department of Information; and the
structuring of a regulatory framework for future private
ownership of broadcast media.
Josh Friedman, a CPJ board member and a former chairman of the
Committee, is the U.N. bureau chief for Newsday and an adjunct
professor of journalism at Columbia University's Graduate
School of Journalism. In 1985, he was awarded the Pulitzer
Prize for international reporting for his coverage of the
famine in Ethiopia.
Kakuna Kerina, CPJ's Africa program coordinator, is an editor,
author, and award-winning documentary filmmaker. She has lived
and studied in Ghana, Ethiopia, and Botswana, and traveled
Ushering Ethiopian Journalism into the 21st Century
RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE ETHIOPIAN AND U.S GOVERNMENT
CPJ is encouraged that, while at the end of last year 31
journalists were in prison in Ethiopia, only nine journalists
remain in detention as this report is going to press. Of those
nine journalists, one is nearing completion of an 18-month
prison term, and the rest were remanded to custody because
they were unable to present personal guarantors for
prohibitive bail amounts ranging from 8,000 birr (US$1,300) to
30,000 birr (US$4,800).
Based on the comprehensive meetings held during the course of
our mission, CPJ has identified several areas of continued
concern. Improvements in these areas would contribute
substantially to the creation of an environment within which
members of Ethiopia's media can work freely and can develop
into the skilled professionals that all of the journalists we
met with aspire to become.
To bring about these improvements, CPJ calls on the Ethiopian
* Immediately and unconditionally release all journalists who
have been imprisoned for exercising their internationally
recognized legal right to report the news.
* Eliminate all criminal libel statutes in the Press
Proclamation, particularly those pertaining to seditious
libel, which criminalizes critical commentary on public
officials and government policies.
* Restore the right of detainees to apply for habeas corpus,
as granted by Art. 19, Sec. 4 of the 1995 Constitution, to
prevent indefinite pretrial detention.
* Abolish excessive bail, which primarily serves to render
private publications financially insolvent.
* Train police officers, the judiciary, and government
officials on the internationally recognized rights of
journalists, the role of the press in a democratic society,
and general human rights issues.
* Establish an equitable system that permits private
ownership of broadcast media.
* Grant the private press equal and unrestricted access to
government press conferences, including joint press
conferences with foreign diplomatic representatives and
* Establish the already promised government press office so
that the media can be informed about government policies and
activities. It should also be this office's responsibility to
respond to all inquiries from the press.
* Continue to provide the private press with equal and
unrestricted access to government training programs and
* Accredit members of the press, both state and private, so
that they may freely cover parliamentary activities.
The United States, which supports the Meles government and
gives Ethiopia the second highest amount of U.S. aid allocated
to sub-Saharan Africa, can greatly influence the development
of a free press in this newly democratic society.
CPJ calls on the U.S. government to:
* Give media training higher priority when allocating funds
for democratization in Ethiopia.
* Issue a public statement granting the private press in
Ethiopia equal and unrestricted access to all press
conferences involving U.S. officials and to all official U.S.
* Publicly encourage the Ethiopian government to give the
private press access to government activities and officials.
* Fund training for the Ethiopian judiciary, police force,
and regional government officials on the internationally
recognized legal rights of journalists, the role of the media
in a democratic society, and general human rights issues.
* Encourage and coordinate media funding by other foreign
government representatives in Ethiopia.
* Expand the media analysis section on Ethiopia in the U.S.
State Department's annual Country Reports on Human Rights
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational
affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary
objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States
around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by
concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant
information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and