- The international press-freedom organisation, Reporters Without Borders has denounced the climate of fear instilled in Ethiopia's independent media as the country prepares for 2010 national elections.
The condemnation follows the closure of Ethiopia's leading weekly paper, Addis Neger, after several of its editors fled the country in the past few days in fear of intimidation and retribution by the government.
RSF said the 2005 crackdown on the opposition and on the independent press is resurfacing in the run-up to the May 2010 general elections.
Local reports said the government has deliberately shut down the famous weekly as 2010 election campaigning begins to heat in order to shut out the few independent political voices.
“We condemn the fact that a weekly has been forced to close because of a smear campaign and because its staff was gripped by fear. We hope the government’s assurances will allow it to resume publishing soon,” RSF said in a statement.
It further vowed to closely monitor the degree of freedom available to the media and whether journalists are able to work without being subject to intimidation and fear during the elections.
An Amharic-language weekly known for being outspoken and critical of the government, announced today that its latest issue dated 28 November was the last one until further notice.
According to RSF, the management said it had been forced to take this decision because of the government’s intention is to prosecute the newspaper and its staff under an anti-terrorism law that was adopted last summer.
The pro-government newspaper Addis Zemen has meanwhile been virulent in its criticism of Addis Neger in a series of articles in recent weeks while the state television station ETV has been preparing a programme attacking the weekly.
In 2005, hundreds of demonstrators, political leaders, journalists and human-rights activists were arrested in connection with the violent protests that erupted following the 2005 election, in which the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front retained power.
Thirteen newspapers were closed down in the aftermath of the 2005 protests.
Addis Neger began publishing in September, 2007. Its circulation of 30,000 made it one of Ethiopia's most widely read non-government newspapers.
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