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    Main » 2011 » September » 27 » A tightening noose
    10:18 PM
    A tightening noose

    Press freedom in Ethiopia

    A tightening noose

    Sep 27th 2011, 6:42 by J.L. | NAIROBI

    BAOBAB recently penned a piece on the decline of the importance given to human rights. It ended with a call for greater resolve: "when anybody feels strongly enough about a cause to make a sacrifice, that compels a certain respect. Lofty, cost-free moral lectures count for less and less."

    This is particularly true of press freedom in Africa. According to the African Federation of Journalists, many African countries have accelerated their abuse and imprisonment of journalists. Eastern Africa is the worst affected, with the assassination of journalists in Somalia and the disappearance and torture of journalists in Eritrea. Indeed, in the Eritrean case the mistreatment is evidence of the brutality and paranoia of the regime.

    Neighbouring Ethiopia is not so bad; it welcomes visitors, including the World Economic Forum, and the government has improved food security and services to the poor. But in its treatment of reporters, Ethiopia is sliding towards Eritrea.

    Take the case of Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian journalist who has been imprisoned on anti-terrorism charges for his criticism of the government following the Arab uprisings. Mr Nega and his wife, Serkalim Fasil, were jailed for 17 months for their reporting following Ethiopia's disputed 2005 elections, in which the government arrested thousands of students and opposition supporters and was responsible for at least some of the post-election violence. The Negas' newspapers were among dozens later closed by the government.

    An open letter by international journalists to the Ethiopian foreign minister highlights broader abuses: "Ethiopia's history of harassing, exiling and detaining both domestic and foreign reporters has been well-documented. Ethiopia is the second-leading jailer of journalists in Africa, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Over the past decade, 79 Ethiopian reporters have fled into exile, the most of any country in the world, according to CPJ data. A number of these have worked as stringers for international news agencies. Additionally, since 2006, the Ethiopian government has detained or expelled foreign correspondents from the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, Bloomberg News, the Christian Science Monitor, the Voice of America, and the Washington Post. We are also concerned by the government's recent decision to charge two Swedish journalists reporting in the Ogaden with terrorism."

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