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REGIONS:

IFEX MEMBERS CRITICISE PRESS LAW

A proposed press law and journalists' code of ethics drafted by the Ethiopian government is drawing increasing criticism from the free-expression community and has prompted several IFEX members to demand its revision.

At a 22 February meeting of the East Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) in Nairobi, Kenya, the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA) joined the EAJA and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in condemning the press law, saying it was designed to render the private press "completely ineffective."

EFJA says Ethiopian security forces have been intimidating the private press in recent weeks, detaining news vendors and confiscating their newspapers. This follows a public forum EFJA organised on 8 February in which participants rejected the proposed press law and criticised the government for shutting out independent media from the consultation process, EFJA says.

A month previously, the government had organised a similar forum to discuss the law with members of the press. While EFJA says it was invited to deliver a paper at the meeting, it walked out after realising the government had no intention of hearing its views, notes the IFJ.

Under the proposed law, the government may impose heavy fines and jail sentences by linking the new law to the oppressive criminal code, adds IFJ.

ARTICLE 19 has released a legal analysis of the press law, saying it breaches international free-expression standards. The group says the law should be scrapped and replaced with an amended version of the existing Press Law passed in 1992. It also urges the government to end the harassment of journalists and take positive measures to improve relations with the independent press.

At the same time, the independent press should contribute to the development of a responsible, independent and effective media sector by promoting higher standards of professionalism and ethics, and engage in constructive dialogue with the government, ARTICLE 19 says.

Visit these links:

- IFJ:
www.ifj.org


- ARTICLE 19 Report:
www.article19.org


- Committee to Protect Journalists:
www.cpj.org


- Human Rights Watch Report:
www.hrw.org


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