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Fourteen IFEX members urge government to halt attacks on the EFJA and ensure that the organisation can work free of harassment and intimidation

(IFJ/IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 28 January 2004 letter to President Woldegiorgis Girma, signed by 14 IFEX members:

H.E. Woldegiorgis Girma
President, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,
P.O. Box 1031, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Phone: +251 1 55 02 24 or + 251 1 12 24 73
Fax: +251 1 55 20 41

28 January 2004

Your Excellency,

We the undersigned condemn in the strongest possible terms the treatment of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA) at the hands of the Ethiopian government.

In recent months we have watched with growing alarm attempts by the Ethiopian authorities to first silence the EFJA organization through the application of purely administrative rules and then, second, to remove the organization's executive board and replace it with new members.

By doing so, we believe that the Ethiopian government is seeking to change the composition of one of the only bodies that can rightfully claim to represent the independent media in Ethiopia. Moreover, we believe that these acts are being carried out to ensure not only that the independent media no longer has a distinctive voice in Ethiopia but also to prevent internal criticism of the new repressive press law that is being prepared for passage through the Ethiopian legislature.

Throughout this period, the Ethiopian government's behavior has been characterized by an unwarranted hostility towards EFJA that belies its alleged support for press freedom in the country. Honest attempts to resolve the situation have been met with intransigence or indifference, once again reinforcing the impression that the removal of the present EFJA executive board is the only outcome the government will countenance.

Therefore, we the undersigned believe that these are the acts of a government that has jettisoned its duties to Ethiopian civil society in favor of its own self-serving concerns: the media should be uncritical in their reports of the government, and Ethiopian citizens should only have access to certain types of information. In such a society, all information critical of the government would be excluded and independent journalists would be punished, compelled to support the authorities or forced to lapse into silence.

It is the opinion of the undersigned that this would create an Ethiopian society that is deeply detrimental to everyone, including the government, and we therefore call upon Your Excellency to seek fresh ways to resolve the problem amicably.

With this in mind, we the undersigned call upon you to halt the attacks on the EFJA organization, to do everything necessary to restore the original executive board members to their rightful place, and to give guarantees that the independent EFJA organization has a right to work free of all harassment and intimidation.

Yours Sincerely,

Aidan White, General Secretary, International Federation of Journalists
Johann P. Fritz, Director, International Press Institute
Timothy Balding, Director General, World Association of Newspapers
Andrew Puddephatt, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19
Arnold Amber, President, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Eugene Schoulgin, Chair, Writers in Prison Committee, International PEN
Alpha Sall, Secretary General, West African Journalists Association
Sola Isola, Executive Director, Independent Journalism Centre, Lagos, Nigeria
Corina Cepoi, Project Director, Independent Journalism Center, Chisinau, Moldova
Hisham Kassem, President, Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Shobhakar Budhathoki, General Secretary, Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies
Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Senior Researcher and Research Coordinator, Freedom House
Panayote Dimitras, Administrative Board Member, Greek Helsinki Monitor
Dr. Robert Russell, Executive Director, Cartoonists Rights Network, International

C.C.: H.E. Ato Meles Zenawi,
Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,
P.O. Box 1031, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Phone: +251 1 55 20 44 or +251 1 11 32 41
Fax: +251 1 55 20 20

C.C.: H.E. Ato Bereket Simon,
Minister of Information of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,
P.O. Box 1031, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 1 53 35 10
E-mail: [email protected]

International Federation of Journalists
International Press Institute

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