Black terror on freedom of expression

Bisrat Woldemichael

Among the desperate times faced by Ethiopians in the 1970s are the socialist divisions among the citizens as groups of ‘white terror and red terror.’ At that time, military rules suppressed ideas. For this reason, some parties are established to face against the army while others are subjected to life in refuge.

The Derg regime did not allow the freedom to expressions and suppressed the press freedom amid its demise by the EPLF & EPRDF forces in 1991. The Derg opponents of that time split in to two as Ethiopia & Eritrea and repeating the same system they used to oppose. 

Particularly, after controlling the Menlik II palace in Addis Ababa, under the leadership of Mr.Meles Zenawie, the EPRDF disclosed the right to free expressions, press freedom, multiparty, freedom of organization for professionals and political parties. Proclamation 34/93 for press freedom in accordance with the constitution Article 29(3) A & B, the right for press freedom for multimedia and copyright provisions are being respected. The press freedom particularly encompasses the following press rights:-

A.   Any form of censorship is prohibited

B.   Clearly indication of getting information for public interest but the above rights slightly worked only until May 2005 during the election. The main reason that the free press disclosed the bad operations and oppression of the press rights by the government and played major roles in the election by motivating the public at large. After the election, some journalists were jailed and others were subjected to refuge.

Consequently, the CPJ, HRW and other reputable international media indicate that more than 140 free press and about 48 government multimedia Journalists are subjected to refuge.

 In fact, even during that time, the number of free press and government media are not proportional to the need of the people. Notwithstanding to the gaps in capacity of some free press & government media professionals, the number of such institutions remains lacking ; for this reason, information supply is limited to some towns and cities.

 Notwithstanding to the provisions of the constitution, the press freedom proclamation No. 590/2007 article 4/1/ that attest ‘The freedom of multimedia is accredited by the constitution. Censorship is prohibited in any way.’ In this proclamation Article 2 attests that “any limitations to multimedia shall be enforced based up only on the provisions of the constitution and the laws.’ The fact presently is far beyond this truth.

 For instance, the government owned ‘Berhanena Selam Printing Enterprise’ officially violated the constitution and the proclamation and drafted a new ‘printing Agreement.’ In this draft article 10/1/ is written ‘The printing press, up on findings that the script supplied by the client violates the law, has the right to reject the printing order.’ This shows that the firm is ready to censor the script before it is printed and as a result the newspapers that officially disclose human rights violations, non democratic operations, issues of good governance and inappropriate actions by EPRDF will be forced to diminish and the public remains thirsty of such information. This encourages dictatorship and the need to remain on power.

 The other article 10/2 of this draft attests that ‘If the printing press finds a content that brings legal accountability is intentionally submitted for printing, it can terminate or dissolve the agreement.’ Besides implementing censorship, it articulates the Journalist or the press ethics as if it is not legally accountable and therefore leading to a conclusion that journalism is not a disciplinary profession. The amazing thing here is that it contradicts with the constitution regardless of the article 9/1/ that states any law or regulation that contradicts the constitution shall be nullified. Not only due to the fact that the printing press belongs to the government but also under the leadership of the EPRDF higher officials that it intended to censor scripts.

 The socialist partisan philosophy divided parties as ‘white terror’ and ‘red terror’ and now indirectly imposed on the free press because of censorship. The White terror and red terror are direct signs for bloodshed but censorship is indirect way of violation of freedom of consciousness and that’s why we called it Black Terror. Thus any threat to the natural rights of human beings shall be cursed.

 The EPRDF led Ethiopian Government appears saying ‘The right to free expression and press freedom are constitutionally approved’ to win the hearts of donors and fooling citizens but kept contrary in action. Writing on papers cannot guarantee the right of citizens nor does it have more value than the paper it is printed on. Freedom shall be shown in action not only by papers. Therefore, suppressing the free press and censorship is a black terror to the freedom of expressions. In this case now a day’s two independent newspapers Feteh and Finote Netasnet are blocked from publishing without legal ground.

In general, suppressing the free press is not only violation of the law but also threatening dignified humanity.   

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