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Censorship In Ethiopia


Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi 16 Dec 2009 (file photo)

Ethiopia's leaders are moving to block the Voice of America's broadcasts in Amharic, the country's dominant language.

The belief that "no news is good news" appears to have found favor in the Horn of Africa, where in the buildup to national elections in May, Ethiopia's leaders are moving to block the Voice of America's broadcasts in Amharic, the country's dominant language. The United States is a friend of Ethiopia, and statements by the government there that VOA's reports are "destabilizing" are as regrettable as they are untrue. We urge Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to reconsider his stand and reject such blatant censorship.

Though VOA's Amharic broadcasts have been interfered with for more than three weeks, it wasn't until March 18 that the prime minister voiced his complaint and announced that testing has been done to "beef up our capacity to deal with it." The arbitrary nature of the action is underscored by the fact that VOA's other broadcasts into the region, in the Tigrinya and Afran Oromo languages, so far are unaffected.

While the prime minister may disagree with the news that VOA is committed to broadcast, his comparison of it to the hate media that enflamed the ethnic killing in Rwanda in 1994 is outrageous and deflects attention from the core issue of objectivity. VOA's Amharic service has a long and honorable history in the Horn, but only now with an election coming up does the government complain that it broadcasts destabilizing propaganda.

Prime Minister Meles' threat also contradicts Ethiopia's commitment to freedom of the press, which is stated plainly in the national constitution.

The United States calls on the government of Ethiopia to abide by its constitution, and protect the universal and fundamental right of freedom of expression.

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