Ethiopia: Press Freedom, 10/20/96

Ethiopia: Press Freedom, 10/20/96

Ethiopia: Press Freedom Date Distributed (ymd): 961020

Contains (1) Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)--Press Release: Ethiopia (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:; WWW:

October 9, 1996

CONTACT: Kakuna Kerina;

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 press freedom.

"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 (

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 Journalists

The State Media: The Government Press and the Broadcast Monopoly

Ushering Ethiopian Journalism into the 21st Century Recommendations to the Ethiopian and U.S. Governments

Appendix i:

* Distribution of Print Media * Printing Presses * The New Technologies * Foreign Media Presence * Professional Associations * Training

Appendix ii:

* Attacks on the Press in Ethiopia, 1992-1996

Appendix iii:

* 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.


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 African country;

* 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 Zimbabwe;

* 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 throughout Africa.


Ushering Ethiopian Journalism into the 21st Century


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 government to:

* 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 international figures.

* 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 facilities.

* 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. embassy functions.

* 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 Practices.


Message-Id: <> From: Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 10:26:09 -0500 Subject: Ethiopia: Press Freedom *

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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