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For Immediate Release
October 9, 1996

Kakuna Kerina
(212)465-1004, x103

U.S. State Department Institutes Policy Change Toward Ethiopian Press During Christopher’s Visit to Addis Ababa

Policy Change Enacted After Review of CPJ Report Revealing More Journalists Imprisoned in Ethiopia in Past Three Years Than in Any Other African Country

New Yorkč U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher today declined the Ethiopian government’s invitation to hold a joint press conference upon his arrival in Addis Ababa. This, in response to a report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) detailing the legal harassment and imprisonment of Ethiopian journalists, and the government’s systematic exclusion of the private press from official press conferences. State Department Spokesperson Nicholas Burns told the Committee’s chair, Kati Marton, that CPJ’s report Clampdown in Addis: Ethiopia’s Journalists at Risk led to the policy change.

In a public statement, Secretary of State Christopher told reporters, “Ethiopia has made progress in human rights during the past five years, but the United States wants to see more. One of the areas of our concern is the freedom of the press and the treatment of journalists.”

CPJ’s report is based on a fact-finding mission conducted last May by Africa Program Coordinator Kakuna Kerina, who wrote the report, and CPJ board member and Newsday U.N. bureau chief Josh Friedman, who wrote the report’s introductory essay. Based on more than 50 interviews with government officials, journalists and other sources, the report demonstrates how independent journalists are regularly harassed, censored and jailed under the provisions of a restrictive press law enacted in 1992. The repressive climate exists despite promises of press freedom made by the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) in 1991 and by the recently elected Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who served as TGE president. Clampdown in Addis, which was released on October 7 -- the day Ethiopia’s Parliament reconvened to address key media issues -- made several recommendations to the Meles administration, and called on the United States and other Western countries to take a more aggressive role in encouraging the Ethiopian government to uphold guarantees of press freedom.

“Secretary of State Christopher’s position is a welcome step toward what CPJ hopes will be a continued U.S. government commitment to press freedom and support for Ethiopia’s independent journalists,” said Kerina. “We look forward to the time when the Ethiopian government views the private press as an ally, not an enemy, in the democratic process.”

To order copies of Clampdown in Addis: Ethiopia’s Journalists at Risk, please call (212) 465-1004.

CPJ documents and responds to press freedom abuses around the world. From its headquarters in New York, CPJ works to get detained journalists out of jail, directs international campaigns of protest against repressive governments, and provides practical safety information to reporters assigned to dangerous areas. CPJ is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and does not accept any government funding.

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