By Tibebe Samuel Ferenji –
Sometimes you see headlines that amuse you and make you wonder if some people are real delusional or blinded with their arrogance and can’t see themselves in a way that the rest of the world see them. When I saw the headline that said “World Press Freedom Day was Celebrated in Ethiopia” followed by the speech from Shimles Kemal, I could not stop being amused and wonder what goes to the mind of this man when he is lying on the world stage. The hypocrisy of the regime in Ethiopia is visible for the whole world, to hide its true color, the regime that is number one in the world in exiling journalists, attempted to put a colorful facade as a champion of “Press freedom”, by “celebrating press freedom day”.
May be the supporters of the EPRDF may take pride because the EPRDF is NUMBER 1 in the world in exiling journalists. This may be a badge of honor to the EPRDF and its surrogates who celebrated World Press freedom Day while they have filled their prisons with journalists and human rights activists.
As the French author and Nobel Prize winner Andre Gide put it, the regime in Ethiopia may believe that the rest of the world will accept its deception if it continue to lie “with sincerity”. For those of us who got used to the deceitful character of the regime in Ethiopia, there is no surprise to hear people like Shimles Kemal talk about Freedom of the Press while assaulting, detaining and torturing journalists. Although in a report that CPJ released to Mark the World Press Freedom Day, the regime in Ethiopia has escaped from the top 10 list of offenders of regimes that censor the press heavily, the CPJ and other Press Freedom advocates have made it clear that Meles uses the “anti-terrorism legislation” that its rubber stamp parliament enacted in 2009 to criminalize any reporting that the regime deems favorable to opposition movements. As the recent report indicates, even reporting about the trail of Eskinder Nega has become “a crime”. This is a regime that celebrates “Press Freedom.”
Since freedom of the press and expression is not protected in Ethiopia, journalists have a challenging job of exposing corruption, power abuse, and the undemocratic political discourse in the country. Therefore, those in power have a freedom to violate the human rights of the ordinary citizens, and rule with iron fist without being accountable to their action. It has been said repeatedly that tyrants fear the power of the pen more than they fear the power of the sword. The main objective of free press is to make the government accountable to its action. In the absence of Free Press, those in power have no one to challenge them when they conduct themselves beyond and above the law. The writing of journalist like Eskinder Nega has proven this time and again. Eskinder challenged the regime, when it imprisoned human rights activists, political opponents, and journalists with trump up charges. Eskinder and his colleagues committed no crime other than telling the truth about the human rights violations and the muzzling of the press in Ethiopia. Is because Eskinder was able to send a shock wave in the regimes spine by simply writing the truth about the true nature of the EPRDF and its surrogates, he became their target. Because Eskinder’s and other journalists reporting have a profound effect in exposing the undemocratic nature of the regime, they are languishing in jail with made up charges and, they are categorized as enemies number one by the ruling elites. History teaches us that tyrants have such an enormous contempt to the free press because they know that the press always shades light in the darkness that they bring into their nation and expose their true evil deeds to the rest of the world.
Today, we have an enormous crisis in our hand. These crises didn’t happen over night. It has been boiling under neat of the regime. By putting information blackout in the country, Meles and his stooges believed that they could control the information outflow; they failed to realize imprisoning journalists and human right activists will not deter others from reporting the truth using whatever tools that they have available at their disposal. Although the government tried everything possible to create a climate of fear in the country, it did not take long for the images of the Amhara farmers to show up in our living rooms when they were uprooted unjustly from their homes. We are witnessing the anger and the frustration of our Muslim brothers and sisters in the streets of Addis Ababa and other cities as it happens. The reports clearly show that our Muslim brothers and sisters are beginning to see the true evil of the regime that promises one thing and does something else. Meles and his stooges undermined the determination of our people and they have been pushing their thumbs into our eyes for the last 21 years. They thought by silencing our journalists and human right activists, they could stop the unstoppable.
The regime has failed to learn from its own history. Our rulers were called useless bandits at one stage of their struggle; now they are calling those of us who are advocating for human and civil rights of our people useless anarchists (Newtenga). They haven’t learned that injustice will never prevail; they haven’t learned that when people have enough of the deception, lies, arrogance, and brute force, they will revolt. By muzzling the press, the regime may have prolonged its hold on power; but history teaches us that the oppressed will always find a way to break the shackles of tyranny and free themselves. If the regime doesn’t change its political discourse soon, I am certain that the fire that the regime started to burn our people will turn against it.
As Serkalem Fasil put it “To create the country that we want, someone has to sacrifice.” So far, an enormous price has been paid to liberate our people from the shackles of this brute regime. Let us unite, let us not allow Meles and his stooges use religion, ethnicity, or other differences that we have to divide us. Let us stand with our Amhara citizens who are unjustly removed from their home; let us stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters who are fighting for freedom of their religion; let us support those whose homes and businesses are demolished by the regime who have shown an enormous disregard to the suffering of our people; let us stand with our journalists and human rights activists who are languishing in deplorable prison; let us not allow this regime to continue to mock us and to continue to push its thumb into our eyes. Support the boycott, lobby for sanction; encourage a revolution, and do what you can for a regime change in Ethiopia. Say enough for 21 years continuous assault on the lives, integrity, honor, history, and dignity of our people and nation. Enough is Enough!