CPJ’s Attacks on the Press in 1996 Provokes An Ethiopian Editor’s Anguished Plea

For Ethiopia’s beleaguered journalists, the release of CPJ’s Attacks on the Press in 1996 in March brought international attention to their extremely precarious plight. In response, Tamrat Bekele, editor of the Addis Tribune, wrote the following editorial,which appeared in his newspaper on the day of the book’s release:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported today that 184 journalists were in prison in 24 countries at the end of 1996, and 27 were killed in the line of duty. This is a grim statistic that is published in Attacks on the Press in 1996.

Sadly, Ethiopia is mentioned as one of the offenders in the CPJ report. Eighteen journalists are in jail. Theoretically, Ethiopia has included all it takes in the Constitution to assure freedom of speech and the right of journalists. Article 29 of Ethiopia’s Constitution enumerates the right of thought, opinion and expression. But we don’t practice what we preach.

We have to learn and build a tradition that the individual is the best judge of how to write and speak. We have to destroy the perception that freedom of expression is a threat to government. Citizens should be encouraged to be an active citizenry “discussing without fear, the conduct of public servants, in every department of the Government.”

We pray that Ethiopia shall not be mentioned as an offender in CPJ’s 1997 report.
–Addis Tribune (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), March 14, 1997