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Ethiopia Cracks Down On Demonstrators, Press


At least eight people were killed in Ethiopia's capital Wednesday during clashes between police and demonstrators. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government late Tuesday revoked the press credentials of Ethiopian journalists working for Voice of America and Deutsche Welle.

For the third day in a row, police and demonstrators clashed in Addis Ababa over the country's May 15 parliamentary election.

It was unclear how many people were killed and injured during Wednesday's violence, with reports ranging from eight to more than 20 dead and possibly more than 100 injured.

Demonstrations also took place Monday and Tuesday at university and college campuses.

Provisional election results indicate a victory for the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front. But opposition parties and others have accused the ruling coalition of massive vote rigging and other fraud.

The head of investigations at the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, Birhanu Tsigu, calls for an immediate end to the violence.

"On the one hand, the opposition is claiming not to have any involvement in all these incidents which are taking place [over] the past few days," he said. "On the other, the government is accusing the opposition to be sponsoring all these incidents. In between, the people are being subjected to these kinds of abuses. It's, I think, getting out of control and they need an immediate measure by the international community as well as by all interested groups in the country to bring about cessation of these kinds of hostilities."

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government has revoked the press credentials of five Ethiopian journalists working for Voice of America and the German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.

Information minister Bereket Simon tells VOA opponents of the government are using the two broadcasters to spread false information, and incite violence. He accuses the journalists of failing to get the government's side of the story in their reporting.

"They [the journalists] were inciting and we have told time and again to the respective authorities of these institutions to make sure that these journalists or stringers report in a balanced way and pursue the journalistic ethics, but to no avail," he said. "So we have to make sure that the peace and stability of this country is respected and that falls squarely on our shoulders."

The Ethiopian Human Rights Council's Birhanu Tsigu says the revoking of the press credentials is the government's latest move to harass journalists and silence dissent.

"So all these tendencies are towards restricting the freedom of expression, towards depriving the public of their right to know, of their right to information. These kinds of acts should be strictly condemned," he said.

Information minister Mr. Bereket says, to get their credentials back, the journalists must appeal, admit they made mistakes, and promise to change in the future.

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