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Government continues to deny three journalists publishing licenses

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 13 August 2008 IPI letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi:

H.E. Meles Zenawi
Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia
c/o H.E. Ambassador Kongit Sinegiorgis
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia to Austria
Wagramer Str.14/1/2
A-1220 Vienna, Austria
Fax: 1-710 21 71

Vienna, 13 August 2008

Your Excellency,

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, is deeply concerned about the government's continued failure to grant publishing licenses to the independent journalists Serkalem Fasil, Eskinder Nega, and Sisay Agena.

According to information before IPI, the three journalists applied for publishing licenses for two Amharic-language weeklies in September 2007. Although the Ministry of Information conceded that all legal requirements had been fulfilled, five months after their applications were filed, on 1 January 2008, the head of the Press Licensing & Permit Office, Fantahun Ares, informed them that their applications had been denied.

When the journalists requested a reason for the denial, Fasil, Nega and Agena were referred to Your Excellency's office. To this date, no adequate explanation for the rejection of these applications has been provided.

Fasil, Nega and Agena, who were imprisoned during the aftermath of the 2005 elections and freed in 2007, should not be deprived, yet again, of their right to free expression. Their publications were intended to provide independent political coverage, much needed to foster an open media environment in your country, especially in consideration of the shutdown of approximately 20 newspapers in 2005.

IPI therefore urges Your Excellency to do everything in your power to ensure that the publishing licenses are granted to the journalists.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Yours sincerely,
Michael Kudlak
Deputy Director

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