News / Africa

Ethiopian Media Challenge Election Coverage Code of Conduct

Ethiopian Media Challenge Election Coverage Code of Conduct
Ethiopian Media Challenge Election Coverage Code of Conduct

Ethiopia is introducing a media code of conduct governing the behavior of journalists covering the May elections for parliament. Press associations are challenging the regulations.

The document tentatively approved by Ethiopia's National Electoral Board places restrictions on reporters covering the pre-election campaign, the voting, and the results.  It outlaws distributing news report that might 'foment political instability', and bans reporters from making predictions about the outcome.

Voting will be May 23rd, but official results are not due until nearly a month later.  

For minor violations, journalists could be stripped of their government license to report.  Serious violations could result in criminal penalties, including fines and jail terms.

Electoral Board spokesman Mohamed Abdurahman says the rules are intended to safeguard freedom of expression.

"Journalists are human beings," Abdurahman said. "They are not different from other communities in society.  Everybody has rights.  If he violates others rights and causes damage to the public or individuals, he will be treated according to what he has done."

Ethiopia's last election for parliament ended in violence when opposition activists took to the streets to protest alleged vote-rigging by the government.  Nearly 200 protesters were gunned down.  

Scores of opposition leaders and journalists, including some VOA Amharic Service employees, were accused of inciting the violence.  Dozens of local reporters were imprisoned.

Election Board spokesman Mohamed says the proposed rules for this next election specifically prohibit reporting 'hate speech' that could provoke ethnic or religious rivalries.

"If some journalist comes up with a report that causes public turmoil, a clash between the public, violence between the mass public, that is a serious problem by bringing some hate speech by some group, if it comes up with reporting and causes a serious problem to the public peace and order, it will be treated accordingly," Abdurahman said.  

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi recently said he would order jamming of VOA's Amharic Service in the pre-election period.  He compared the service to Radio Mille Collines, which was accused of helping to incite the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

VOA rejected that characterization.  Director Danforth Austin said comparing VOA Amharic to the genocidal Radio Mille Collines broadcasts is both 'incorrect and unfortunate'.   

Ethiopian media groups have objected to the proposed code.  Mekonnen Teshome, deputy general secretary of the Ethiopian National Journalists Union, says rules governing reporters' conduct should be made and enforced by their peers, not the government.

"The mandate of adopting such a law should not be given to the National Electoral [Board]," Abdurahman said. "They say they have the mandate to adopt a Code of Conduct for journalists, but we consistently insisted  that we professionals should do that."  

Mekonnen says the proposed rules effectively give a government agency arbitrary power to rule on the fairness of election coverage.

"Journalists are fearful to report anything, because it is not clear.  What they put here (in the document) is not clear," Abdurahman said.

Government spokesman Shimelis Kemal said Tuesday officials are reconsidering the code of conduct in light of reporters' objections.  He told VOA there is growing sentiment for a code voluntarily enacted by journalists.

But others contacted for this report suggested that with election day less than two months away, and given the differences of opinion among journalists about the code's contents, the government rules may be the only option.

You May Like

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid