NEW YORK, May 10, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Ethiopia’s main, state-owned printing company has directed newspaper publishers to censor any content that may draw government prosecution under the country’s antiterrorism law or face cancellation of their printing contracts, according to local journalists and news reports.
In late April, the state-owned Barhanena Selam (Light and Peace) Printing Company, which is used by most local newspaper publishers, issued a directive saying it would refuse to print any material it believes would breach Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law, according to the same sources.
The legislation criminalizes independent reporting on opposition groups or causes that the government deems terrorist and holds printers, as well as publishers, accountable for material that “promotes terrorism.” The directive, a copy of which CPJ obtained, allows Barhanena Selam the right to cancel any printing contract if the publisher repeatedly submits content the printer considers legally objectionable. (An English translation of the Amharic directive can be read here).
Barhanena Selam said it would require all newspaper publishers to agree to the new terms before further publications would be printed. Local journalists said there haven’t yet been interruptions to printing even though not all newspapers have signed.
“This directive, coming from a state-owned company, is an effort to codify pre-publication censorship under the repressive terms of Ethiopia’s antiterrorism law, which the United Nations has criticized for its excessive scope,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “This directive must be rescinded immediately.”
Thirteen publishers have jointly protested the directive, claiming it contravenes Article 29 of Ethiopia’s Constitution and the Freedom of the Mass Media and Access to Information law, which both prohibit censorship, the editor of the weekly Reporter, Amare Aregawi,told CPJ. The publishers also drafted a letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, he said.
The publishers question the ability of the printing company to determine what may be illegal, Addis Fortune Managing Editor Tamerat Giorgis told CPJ. The printing company declined a meeting, but the publishers still hope to meet and negotiate with the company soon, according to local reports.
The publishers questioned government spokesman Shimeles Kemal at a function for World Press Freedom Day in the capital Thursday over the directive, according to a local news report. Although the printing company is state owned, he claimed the issue is a private one between businesses, the same report said.
Ethiopia is the second leading jailer of journalists in Africa, with seven journalists imprisoned on terrorism-related charges, according to CPJ research. The verdict of critical blogger and 2012 PEN America press freedom award winner, Eskinder Nega, is expected Friday. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
For more data and analysis on Ethiopia, visit CPJ’s Attacks on the Press.
SOURCE Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Sudan / Call for an end to harassment of detained journalist Faisal Mohammed Salih
PARIS, France, May 10, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The freelance journalist and human rights activist Faisal Mohamed Salih was arrested arbitrarily today in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. The day before, he was held for eight hours at the office of the security forces where he was given nothing to eat or drink.
Reporters Without Borders is outraged at the violence and pressure to which the journalist, a former editor of the newspaper Al-Adwa, has been subjected for almost two weeks.
“We ask the Sudanese authorities to call a halt to such cruel intimidation, bordering on physical and psychological torture,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The aim of these repeated detentions is to push him to his limit and at the same time to prevent him from doing his job. We call for Faisal Mohamed Salih’s immediate and unconditional release.”
On 25 April, Salih was summoned to the office of the National Intelligence and Security Services in Khartoum where he was questioned by officers for several hours about critical comments he made about President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in an interview with Al-Jazeera on 19 April.
The next day, he was once again called the NISS office and subsequently spent seven hours a day there every day, until his arrest, without being questioned and with no legal proceedings or judicial investigation being undertaken against him.
“The constant harassment to which he has been subjected is further proof of the repressive attitude towards the press on the part of the Khartoum government, whose intention is to silence all dissident voices,” the press freedom organization added.
On 22 and 24 April and 3 May, the intelligence service seized all copies of the opposition newspaper Al-Midan as soon as it had completed its print run. No clear reason was given.
Besides preventing Sudanese citizens from being informed, this method of censorship causes severe financial losses for the media organizations concerned, which face a stark choice of self-censorship or closure.
SOURCE Reporters without Borders (RSF)