(EFJA) The Ethiopian Free Press Association (EFJA) strongly condemns the use of Ethiopia’s controversial anti-terrorism law to persecute, muzzle and silence critics and journalists. EFJA also calls upon press freedom advocates, human rights organizations and freedom-loving individuals around the world to make concerted international efforts to stop widespread violations of human rights that are being routinely committed by the TPLF-led government.
It is a sad spectacle that the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been abusing the law and the court system to punish journalists, human rights advocates, civil and political leaders that are critical of government policies and those who dare to expose corruption, gross human rights violations, abuse of power and all sorts of political crimes in Ethiopia.
It should be noted that the 1994 Ethiopian constitution, adopted by the TPLF and its allies, guarantees freedom of expression and also upholds the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 29 stipulates: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression without any interference. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of his choice.” Article 19 further declares that the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution must conform to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenants on Human Rights and International instruments adopted by Ethiopia.
As a matter of fact, the constitution has never been respected since its very inception. The Ethiopian government has consistently proved to be one of the leading repressive regimes in world. In the last two decades, journalists and media organizations have been the major targets of repression and persecution. As a result of this fact, CPJ has ranked Ethiopia the number one source of exiled journalists in the world and one of the most hostile enemies of press freedom. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Genocide Watch, Reporters without Boarders, International Press Institute and many other advocates of freedom have condemned the acts and conducts of the Ethiopian government.
In the widely condemned “terrorism” drama, two Swedish journalists, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, have been the first batch to be convicted of terrorism offenses only for doing their jobs as journalists in the restive Oganden region, where gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity have been frequently reported. More recently, journalists Reeyot Alemu, a columnist for the weekly Amharic, Feteh, and Wubishet Taye, deputy editor-in-chief of Awramba Times and Elias Kifle, editor and publisher of U.S.-based website, Ethiopian Review, have been “convicted” of trumped up acts of terrorism.
In a separate charge under the case of Andualem Aragie et al, one of Ethiopia’s most prominent journalists, Eskinder Nega is expected to be convicted of similar offenses. Under the same file, exiled journalists and editors Abebe Belew of Addis Dimits, Fasil Yenealem of the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), Abebe Gellaw of Addis Voice and ESAT, Abiy Teklemariam and Mesfin Negash of Addis Neger Online are predicted to be convicted of the charges in a Kangaroo court show trial. By doing so, the Ethiopia government will only set another offensive world record for using terrorism legislation to terrorize its own citizens and silence critics.
EFJA strongly condemns these outrageous acts of lawlessness in Ethiopia and urges the government to free all journalists and political prisoners without any preconditions.
EFJA also believes that only condemning the outrageous political crimes being perpetrated against innocent and peace-loving citizens has proven to be a futile exercise. Therefore, EFJA calls on civil liberty and freedom advocates around the world to coalesce against gross violations of basic liberties in Ethiopia. EFJA also urges democratic governments around the world to join forces to stop crimes against humanity in Ethiopia and press Western governments to desist from doling out foreign aid without any preconditions.
If the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is to remain relevant, humanity has to act in unison against the egregious acts of dictatorship in countries like Ethiopia. After all, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.