Joint Letter to Ethiopian Minister of Information

H.E. Ato Bereket Simon,
Minister of Information
P.O. Box 1364
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
c/o National Parliament

Fax: +251 1 527 967
E-mail: [email protected]

Thursday 22nd July 2004

Re: Draft Proclamation to Provide for the Freedom of the Press in Ethiopia

Dear Minister Simon,

We, the undersigned free expression organisations, would like to reiterate our concerns about the recent draft Proclamation to Provide for the Freedom of the Press in Ethiopia (Draft Proclamation).

The Draft Proclamation in its present form contains some improvements on previous drafts, but there are still some serious problems with the law, including: restrictions on who may practice journalism;
government-controlled licensing and registration systems; and harsh sanctions for violations of the law, including up to five years’ imprisonment.

Other areas of concern include: excessively broad exceptions to the right to access information held by public authorities; the granting of a right to reply remedy which undermines the principle of editorial independence; the establishment of a government-controlled Press Council with powers to prepare and enforce a Code of Ethics; and powers vested in the courts to engage in prior-censorship.

We welcome the initiative of the Ethiopian government to consult some media stakeholders on the Draft Proclamation and urge you to ensure that in practice the process is truly inclusive and democratic.

We call on the Ethiopian government to ensure that the ongoing national consultation on the Draft Proclamation takes into consideration the concerns and recommendations of international, regional and national free expression organisations.

We further urge the Ethiopian government to amend the Draft Proclamation to address these concerns and to bring it into line with the highest international standards on free expression.

Please find enclosed an ARTICLE 19 analysis on the Draft Proclamation for your consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Andrew Puddephatt
Executive Director, ARTICLE 19

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director, Committee to Protect Journalists

Luckson Chipare
Director, Media Institute of Southern Africa

Aidan White
Secretary General, International Federation of Journalists

Kwame Karikari
Executive Director, Media Foundation for West Africa

Edetaen Ojo
Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda

See ARTICLE 19’s briefing note on the draft press law.