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New Media Law, New Threat to Press Freedom Print E-mail
Written by Inter Press Service   
Wednesday, 09 July 2008

Ethiopian NewspapersNAIROBI, Jul 8 (IPS) - A new media law -- six years in the making -- has been passed by Ethiopia's House of People's Representatives. Its preamble declares that "the proclamation removes all obstacles that were impediments to the operation of the media in Ethiopia." But an analysis by Ethiopian journalists finds it actually clears the way for government to continue to harass and persecute the messenger when the message is not in line with the whims of the rulers.

The 'Mass Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation', which purports to update and reform the first ever Ethiopian press law of 1992, has been a source of controversy ever since its initiation in 2002.

The new law fits into a pattern of official persecution of journalists seen over the last three years. Soon after controversial 2005 elections, three newspapers and magazines belonging to the country's largest private publisher, Serkalem Publishing House, were closed down as part of a widespread crackdown on media that dared to criticise the handling of the poll. Serkalem Fasil and her family were imprisoned for over a year.

Ten other independent publications were also forced to shut down, leaving hundreds of journalists unemployed.

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