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Key Developments

» Government broadens use of terror law, criminalizes coverage of opponents.

» Wary of Arab uprisings, authorities censor, jail independent journalists.

Trumpeting economic growth on par with India and asserting adherence to the authoritarian model of China, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi pushed an ambitious development plan based in part on ever-hardening repression of critical journalists. The government aggressively extended application of a 2009 anti-terrorism law, designating rebel and opposition groups as terrorists and criminalizing news coverage of them. Authorities were holding seven journalists in late year on vague accusations of terrorism, including two Swedes who reported on separatist rebels in the oil-rich Ogaden region, and three Ethiopians with critical views of the ruling party. The government provided no credible evidence against the journalists, and both Zenawi and state media proclaimed the journalists' guilt before trial proceedings started. The Human Rights Committee of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights raised numerous questions about the use of the terror law in its periodic review of Ethiopia's record. In November, government intimidation led to the closing of the independent Awramba Times and forced two of its journalists, including 2010 CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Dawit Kebede, to flee the country. Another journalist fled into exile in September after his name appeared in unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. Police threatened to arrest the journalist after the cable showed he had spoken to U.S. diplomats about a potential press crackdown.

  • 79

    In exile, 2001-11
  • 7

    Imprisoned on December 1, 2011
  • 4

    International journalists jailed
  • 1

    Internet service provider
  • 99.6%

    Ruling party control of parliament

Ethiopia has driven more journalists into exile over the past decade than any other nation in the world, according to CPJ research. Official harassment and the near-constant threat of imprisonment have compelled dozens of journalists to flee.

Journalists in Exile, 2001-2011:
79 Ethiopia
68 Somalia
66 Iran
55 Iraq
49 Zimbabwe
47 Eritrea
25 Sri Lanka
25 Cuba
20 Colombia
18 Haiti
18 Rwanda
18 Uzbekistan
17 Gambia


Imprisonments in Ethiopia rose in 2011 in concert with its aggressive extension of terror laws. Dissent, and even coverage of dissent, was conflated with treason.

Imprisoned in Ethiopia over time:

Two Swedish journalists reporting on separatist rebels were convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to 11 years in prison apiece. Two Eritrean journalists remained in government custody on vague terrorism accusations after being jailed in 2007. With seven jailed in all, Ethiopia's crackdown propelled it into the ranks of the world's leading jailers of the press.

World's worst jailers in 2011:

Iran: 42

Eritrea: 28

China: 27


Burma: 12

Vietnam: 9

Syria: 8

Turkey: 8

Ethiopia: 7


With investments from China's ZTE Corp. and France Telecom, the government retained monopoly control over state-owned Ethio Telecom, allowing it to conduct the most substantial filtering of Internet sites in sub-Saharan Africa, according to CPJ research and the OpenNet Initiative. Censorship of online media secured authorities a spot in CPJ's May report on the world's worst online oppressors.

CPJ's 2011 Online Oppressors:


The ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) controlled all but one of 547 seats in the House of Peoples' Representatives. Since 2008, the chamber enacted three laws restricting independent media, political opposition, and civil society organizations. The party's grip on the chamber mirrored its dominance of the media and political scenes.

EPRDF's dominance of media and politics:
Media regulation and licensing: 100 percent (EPRDF controlled the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority)
Newspaper printing presses: 100 percent (EPRDF controlled the two state-owned printing presses)
Broadcasters: 95 percent (EPRDF supporters controlled 21 of 22 broadcasters)
Newspapers with in-depth political coverage: 60 percent (EPRDF supporters controlled six out of 10 newspapers)

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