INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY COMMITTEE FOR
PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE, ISCEPC
(North American Office, P.O. Box 53022,
Medford, MA 02153, USA)
20 JANUARY 1998
SAVE THE PRESS IN ETHIOPIA!
Reports coming out of Ethiopia continue to indicate the
escalation of the abuse of human rights and the absence of peace
and tranquility in the country. It is depressing to note that the
political landscape of the country remains overcast and cloudy in
spite of what the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF)
congress tried to paint in its recent communique.
Unfortunately, the congresses of TPLF and its satellite ethnic
organizations were reminiscent of the congresses of the now
defunct Workers Party of Ethiopia. Like the delegates who use to
go to listen to Mengistu Haile Mariam's rhetoric and lies, TPLF's
delegates who went to Me'kele and Jimma, did not raise the
pressing issues of the day. Neither the issues of prisoners of
conscience nor the ethnic composition of the army nor the
modalities of achieving peace nor substantive governance issues
were raised. Hence, like Mengistu's cronies, the delegates to the
series of congresses were decoys of Meles Zenawi's circus.
This fact, together with others like the growing tension between
EPLF and TPLF and the recent circular by the United Nations'
office in Addis Ababa, regarding rescue procedures in the event
of an open civil strife in the capital, were printed on TOBIA
newspaper. For the past five years, this paper has been and still
is regarded by many as the icon of the Ethiopian free press. In
spite of the shortage of journalistic skills in the country and
the fleeing of well over eighteen news editors out of the country
for fear of persecution, TOBIA provided an in-depth analysis of
current events and carried news items which are factual. It
informed the Ethiopian community in the diaspora through its
Internet home page, using the Ethiopic script. TOBIA's readership
is estimated to be much higher than any of the government owned
newspapers, which by and large contain propaganda.
Like many tyrannical regimes in the world, the leaders of TPLF
did not like the free press. Government officials closed their
doors to members of the free press. They were denied access to
even official briefings. This was clearly observed by the
international community when the ex-Secretary of State, H.E.
Warren Christopher visited Ethiopia about a year ago. The embargo
is still in force.
Members of the free press were and are routinely arrested and
imprisoned. As a result, officials of the Ethiopian Free Press
Association have been forced to flee into exile. According to the
1997 report of the New York based Committee for the Projection of
Journalists (CPJ), Ethiopia ranked one of the worst three
countries in the world in the abuse of journalistic rights.
In addition to the above, the International Solidarity
Committee for Ethiopian Prisoners of Conscience (ISCEPC) has
learned that the premises of TOBIA newspaper was burned down on
Friday 16 January 1998 at about 8:00 Pm. On the same day, prior
to the burning, at about 2:00 pm, four senior journalists of the
same newspaper were arrested by a plain clothed police. Their
whereabout is unknown. The names are:
. Mr. Goshu Moges, Manager, Atbia Kokob Publishing Co.
. Mr. Biru Tsegaye, Acting Editor
. Mr. Anteneh Merid, Deputy Editor
. Mr. Taye Belachew, Ex-editor
The arrest of the above journalists makes the number of
prisoners of conscience in the country to be counted in
thousands. The ISCEPC condemns both the dirty trick and the
arrest, and hopes that the free press in Ethiopia will not be
permanently silenced! We express our sympathy to the imprisoned
journalists and call upon the international community to save the
free press in Ethiopia.