The Ethiopian Government’s Illegal Control of the Press and Digital Media – The Organization for World Peace

April 26e, 2022, a representative of the Ethiopian Attorney General’s office accused the police of “spreading disinformation and hate speech”. The statement sparked a huge crackdown on the press due to the oppressive standards of the Ethiopian government, which remains deeply concerned about its reputation on the world stage.

The country has severed all communication links to prevent others from finding out the truth about the country’s humanitarian crisis. Police ransacked local newsrooms and the Ethiopian Media Authority filed criminal charges against more than 25 media outlets. Widely recognized international correspondents, such as Tom Gardner of The Economist, have been expelled from the country. More than 20 journalists, including magazine editors and talk show hosts, have been forcibly detained even though Ethiopia’s media law prohibits pretrial detention for all alleged offenses committed through the media. It is precisely for this reason that Daniel Bekele has repeatedly demanded the immediate release of all media personnel, but his words have so far been ignored.

The justification for these illegal arrests is linked to their role in exposing the ongoing fighting between the Ethiopian army and militias in the Amhara region. To limit coverage of such events, Ethiopian security arrested more than 4,000 anti-government protesters and opposition politicians.

Government officials say the behavior of these rebels has exacerbated the bloodshed, dragging the country deeper into chaos and conflict. Amhara Regional Government Representative Gizachew Mulune said that “the right to freedom of expression does not permit the tarnishing of the honor of individuals, communities, government or the country”, further adding that ” calling for ethnic and religious clashes and pushing extremist agendas are unforgivable crimes and cannot be considered free speech.

In contrast, press freedom advocates ridiculed Mulune’s comments, retorting that detentions are a long-standing trend. Angela Quintal, chair of the Committee to Protect Journalists, argued that media restrictions have increased dramatically over the past three years, especially during the civil war. For decades, journalists have been arrested, detained and deprived of trial for long periods of time, and there is no end to such illegal behavior in sight. Many Ethiopian journalists have either given up their careers or considered doing so, given the intense pressure on them. Some even fled to neighboring countries out of fear and toned down their reporting on certain issues for their own protection.

In 2009, the government passed a bill that has been used to sentence journalists to prison terms for terrorism. Journalists had two options: report what the state wanted them to report or become an enemy of the state. The older generation of journalists who survived this horrific period are terrified that history will repeat itself.

This change in attitude towards the press surprised those who were optimistic when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took over the reins of the country. When he came to power, he ordered the release of the thousands of detained politicians and journalists and promised them to operate freely in 2018. Exiled journalists have returned to the country, digital news outlets have proliferated and the year 2018 became the year 2018. the first year since 2004 during which no journalist was arrested.

However, once the civil war in the Tigray region broke out, things went downhill. Radios and television stations were forcibly shut down and journalists were again targeted and arrested. In addition, government propaganda skyrocketed. Officials branded local journalists traitors and foreign correspondents branded mercenaries. Even aid workers have been banned from entering the area, which has helped their efforts to control the flow of information. The year 2021 was even more catastrophic when Prime Minister Abiy took over as head of the Ethiopian Media Authority and imposed the destruction of media material as well as the incarceration of journalists.

The government has left journalists and aid workers helpless. Those wishing to help innocent civilians survive can only send donations to companies such as the Ethiopian Children’s Relief Fund. Even with the country’s rapid disintegration, it ranks at the bottom of the global scale. However, legal action must be taken to ensure the safety and well-being of all journalists trapped in Ethiopia, whether it is deploying a strong military force from powerful countries or raising awareness through the media. . The people of Ethiopia deserve the same level of attention as any other group affected by a humanitarian crisis.

Aubrey L. Morgan