News / Africa

Experts Believe Limited Press Freedom to Continue in Ethiopia

Officials move a portrait of Meles Zenawi shortly after the announcement of his death in Addis Ababa August 21, 2012. Officials move a portrait of Meles Zenawi shortly after the announcement of his death in Addis Ababa August 21, 2012.
x
Officials move a portrait of Meles Zenawi shortly after the announcement of his death in Addis Ababa August 21, 2012.
Officials move a portrait of Meles Zenawi shortly after the announcement of his death in Addis Ababa August 21, 2012.
Rizwan Syed
The death of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has raised questions about the state of press freedom in the country.  After weeks of government silence over Meles' health, he died suddenly in a Belgian hospital on August 20.  Journalists who had reported on his health had seen harsh reprisals from the government, such was the case with Temesgen Desalegn, editor of the prominent Ethiopian weekly newspaper Feteh who was jailed late last month.

Analysts say hardliners in the government, coupled with the country's one-party rule, will keep the Ethiopian press firmly under government control in the future. Mohamed Keita with the Committee to Protect Journalist's Africa Program says government prosecution and laws prevented a free press from developing under Meles.

"Systematic persecution and criminalization of news gathering activities, critical reporting, investigative journalism never had a chance to grow under his rule because access to information never became a reality and his government continually enacted laws that ever restricted the activities of journalists and criminalized these activities," said Keita.

The illness and whereabouts of Meles had been a source of rampant media speculation for weeks, including reports that he had died or gone on holiday.

Keita says this is because of the government's culture of secrecy.  

"Because the government did not provide reliable information, refused to give details about his whereabouts and his condition," noted Keita.  "This reflected the culture of secrecy within the ruling party and so in the absence of reliable information rumors ran wild and this is why there was so much speculation."

Meles has been succeeded by Hailemariam Desalegn, who had been deputy prime minister. Keita thinks freedom of the press in Ethiopia will not improve under Hailemariam because of hardliners' influence in the ruling party.

"The ruling party, there are hard-liners in the party and they wield a lot of influence," Keita noted.  "I don't think Hailemariam is a hard-liner, but I'm sure he's under a lot of pressure so I don't know if he'll have a chance to really break with the past."

VOA correspondent Peter Heinlein, who was based in Addis Ababa, says the government made it increasingly hard to report during his several years there.

"We saw a steady increase in the regulation of the news media and also the government is very clever in limiting the number of sources that are available to reporters," Heinlein explained.  "People in Ethiopia are generally wary of speaking to reporters and many times I would go back to a source or a person I'd spoken to and interviewed for a second time and found that after they appeared on VOA the first time they were warned that this is not the thing to do and some of them flat out told me 'I'm scared to talk to VOA. I'm scared to talk to the foreign press.'"

Heinlein says it was difficult for the Ethiopian press to report accurately on Meles' deteriorating health because of the government line.

"The state media and the private media were more or less hewing to the government line," Heilein added.  "It's very difficult to really suss out what the truth is in an environment like that."

Press freedom so far has not improved under Meles' successor.  Feteh newspaper editor Temesgen Desalegn was denied bail Thursday after being jailed for reporting on the health of the prime minister last month.

Heinlein thinks press freedom will not improve under the new leadership.

"Hailemariam is basically the same government as Meles Zenawi," Heilein noted.  "Ethiopia is a one party state defacto and the policies won't change. The policies are dictated by a small politburo known as the executive committee and that executive committee has not relinquished one iota of its policy-making authority now that Meles Zenawi is gone."

Amnesty International has condemned the government's detention of Temesgen, saying the arrest is a worrying signal that the government intends to carry on targeting dissent.

You May Like

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

Feasts centering on turkeys with an array of traditional sides and desserts are part of the holiday's traditions, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Honesty from: Addis Ababa
August 26, 2012 12:35 AM
"Press freedom so far has not improved under Meles' successor" ... and the U.S. still subsidizing this terrorism?!?! ... nothing is sadder!!


by: Adv Trek from: Ethiopia
August 25, 2012 10:06 PM
How about reporters ALSO holding their own profession accountable...The hypocrisy is suffocating.

Barely a decade ago, there were many independent newspapers in Ethiopia, all fiercely battling for SALES GRABBING HEADLINES, printing inflammatory and derogatory ethnic gossip as news.

Western media licensing boards would never tolerate much of what went on in Ethiopia, gossip news printed as fact and opposition politicians working with newspaper editors...the Rupert Murdoch case in Britain is a good example with major newspaper company shut down…yet, many enjoy imposing such hypocrisy on developing nations.


by: Media Hypocrisy from: UK
August 25, 2012 9:18 PM
If today's negative media was genuine, they would've long ceased quoting a corrupt organization like Amnesty International, fundraising millions by badmouthing developing nations.

Amnesty International secret million dollar pay-offs to its two bosses:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1358537/Revealed-Amnesty-Internationals-800-000-pay-offs-bosses.html


by: Andom from: Ethioipia
August 25, 2012 7:58 PM

Indeed we Ethiopians are secretive. That is one of the tools we used to keep colonizers off of our boundaries. That is the true source of the internally motivated and independently executed development. Of course one day we will unleash the secret we kept on the death of our visionary and brilliant leader; that time shame will be on the USA.

Please refrain from pushing us to our limit. If you really care for human beings, you may need to start from improving the life of African Americans and Native Indians who unfortunately dwell under your racist administration. The world know what you are doing on them. So why are you trying to appear holy by condemning African leaders who still are working hard to find an antidote for the poision Europeans (and US) deep planted in Africa. And again you are demanding us not to be secretive. For what? To learn what more evil you can do on us? Thanks for what we learned from our late PM. He has made you clear for us. No u-turn anymore!

In Response

by: meiraf from: addis ababa
September 01, 2012 5:34 AM
If you don't show my comment where is VOA's press freedom within itself. SHAME ON VOA(your nonsense would never help Ethiopias transformation, if you are a real Ethiopian come and give your profession for the positive growth of Ethiopia)
How many years did it take for USA to achieve Democracy?(200)

In Response

by: AT
August 28, 2012 1:33 PM
Andom just listen to yourself, you are such a mooncalf. The US and EU bank roll Ethiopian budget, and remittance from Ethiopians abroad mainly in US and Europe sent to their family in Ethiopia surpassed Ethiopias number one export commodity which is coffee for third year counting, so i don't understand when you say our secretive culture kept colonizers off of our boundries, who do you think is running the show in Ethiopia, if you tell me its EPRDF, you are foolish...have you heared of the saying "beggars can't be choosers" that applies to our country


by: Behailu from: Norway
August 25, 2012 6:04 PM
The government is not only supressing press fredom, but also fredom to live freely. In recent years jobs open only for party members. Now, people are being forced to morn for Meles in Kebeles and workplaces. This is what we witnessed in Korea in Kim Il sung's death. Please, Watch ETV's live streaming and archive to prove this and where Ethiopia would be heading.

In Response

by: Mintewab from: Ethiopia
August 29, 2012 3:22 AM
AT, even though what you say is right, you have to think about the root cause of our poverty!and you have mentioned about the remittance again, I want you to think about what our country has lost along with her children, To Behailu from Norway ,I am not a party member but i am doing fine ,don't generalize on some particular cases.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid