Can Freedom of Press Happen in Ethiopia?

Jailed Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega seeks freedom.

Can Freedom of Press Happen in Ethiopia?

Lack of press freedom in Ethiopia has jailed a number of innocent journalists, including Eskinder Nega.

Published June 18, 2012

Jailed Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega (Photo: Courtesy

(Special to The Root) -- After a reunion a few weeks ago in New York with Serkalem Fasil, an Ethiopian journalist and former publisher whose husband Eskinder Nega, also a journalist, is in prison on terrorism charges, I vowed to go to Ethiopia and plead with the government for his release, along with that of several other journalists imprisoned with him. Despite the Ethiopian government's claim that Nega and the other seven journalists are "spies for foreign forces," a wide array of human rights organizations and freedom of the press advocacy groups believe otherwise.

The journalists are there primarily because of their critical reporting, say rights groups, as Nega was when I visited him seven years ago along with Serkalem (who gave birth to their child in prison). And the government has gotten even tougher since then. As many as 150 people reportedly have been arrested since the government passed a sweeping anti-terrorism law in 2009.

I have just spent the weekend in Addis Ababa with two colleagues -- Rob Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), on whose board I serve, and Dele Olojede, a board member on the African Media Initiative (AMI), which I co-chair. We had gotten word that the government would meet with us, provided we got beyond where such meetings have been in the past: criticism of the government's record on press freedom and intense condemnation by journalists, human rights advocates and some Western governments.

And while we had every intention of being critical of journalists' incarceration and calling for their release, we believed we could go beyond that with the participation of both CPJ, which fights for press freedom all over the world, and AMI, which helps media owners and journalists to be the best they can be, with workshops and other kinds of professional assistance.


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Written by Charlayne Hunter-Gault,


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