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Leave a comment Originally posted on Oct. Six months ago the ploy used to kill the private press was a price hike on printing costs. That evidently did not work. Now the government is trying to silence them by all means possible.
An orchestrated campaign against these newspapers spearheaded by the ailing Addis Zemen is well underway. Having gotten rid of all independent voices in the country, the ruling party is set to strike a blow on the last vestiges of free speech in a country. Papers in question Awramba Times whose co- deputy editor-in-chief is already in jail on terrorism charges has been a favorite subject of the ruling party propaganda machine.
The paper which was established three years ago has been a market place of news and views. It has many columns that cater to the various kind of readership. Politics, health, entertainment, sports and so on. But their bold views have not been liked by the government. As a result, they have long become a subject of smear campaign by the government media, both print and electronics. Its publisher the award winning Dawit Kebede is in unenviable situation.
Fetehe is the other weekly that also has an online presence. The paper has managed to attract the attention of leading public intellectuals. To his credit, many admired him for choosing to express his views in that manner.
But the strong and uncompromising views and articles published in Fetehe seem to have created discomfort in the TPLF village. The paper already has been charged with countless offences. The two papers jointly issued a statement about their predicament. They indicated they have been barred from getting information from government offices.
The government owned newspaper, published under the Ethiopian Press Agency, was supposed to serve all citizens regardless of their political views. That is in principle. But the paper has always wagged its tail to whoever calls the tunes at Arat Kilo. By deliberately distorting the points of the arguments in Awramba, Zemen wants to paint it as a mouthpiece of outlawed opposition groups.
The Amharic daily accuses Awramba of meddling in the affairs of court cases that are still in progress. But Zemen cannot question the utterances of his holiness as his words are sacrosanct straight out of the Holy Scriptures. The Prime Minister in one of his incessant lectures to the Short of calling names he was sending a clear message to the two papers accusing them of calling their imprisoned colleagues innocent while the prosecutor has not even filed the charges.
His threat did not stop there. He mentioned about the terms of release of some of them when they were sentenced to life in prison some years back.
It was all clear who he was referring to. He accused the private media journalists of ignorance on the ABC of journalism. Precedence This strategy is not new though. Two years ago it worked for them with a popular weekly Addis Neger. Then also the preemptive strikes were begun through Addis Zemen in the form of opinions.
After two years of existence, the once popular paper vanished just like that. The guys continued to replicate the paper online.
While they still manage to scoop stories, the web edition is a far cry from the print version. Where Addis Zemen at Addis Zemen which normally is forgotten in press circles seems to have itself forgotten what is going on outside of its premises. To attack the managing editor of Awramba Times, Zemen has to go all the way to Rwanda. Then it talks about a radio station called Radio mille francaise. Only Addis Zemen knows where that radio station existed. Addis Zemen was established in Seems all is going well for it.
But the paper is deteriorating by each day. It is hard to get people who can read it. But we should also remember that Addis Zemen defended the private press. That probably is a less known fact.
One of the many ways the government used to crack down on the private press was by harassing newspaper vendors. Security forces were chasing and arresting those who carry private papers. So the vendors started to carry a couple of Addis Zemen on top of the private papers. Broad sheet as it is with its large A2 size, Zemen was doing a good job of covering the other papers. That way the police would think vendors were carrying government papers. Street vendors call the septuagenarian newspaper, a shield for lightening Mebreq Mekelakeya.
I will take consolation in remembering those sacrifices Zemen paid to defend the private papers.
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