What Ethiopian press is saying about jailed journalists?

A week before the commencement of the trial of the two Swedish journalists- Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye- charged with terrorism much of the global press was already reporting the case following Prime Minster Meles Zenawi’s interview with the Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten. Now, primer’s public allegations against two imprisoned journalists have become a dominant theme on pro-government media of Ethiopia. Interestingly enough, Walta Information Center, a pro-government private news and information service, that had been reporting about the Swedish-Eritrean journalist, Dawit Isaak and its subsequent concern of the Swedish authorities as Dawit remains jailed in the neighboring, Eretria kept shtoom about Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye
In his Amharic feature titled – “A country that permits public demonstration for animal right but not for human rights” Dawit Kebede, managing editor of Awramba Times, one of the few remaining private Amharic weeklies, satirizes the latest interview of Meles Zenawi with Aftenposten as a buy and sell business since his paper imported the interview and translated it for Amharic readers like an Ethiopian import of a foreign currency. With this claim he accentuated on how journalists from the private press methodically barred from meeting or interviewing Prime Minster Meles Zenawi for his entire time in power. In its weekend editorial, Awramba Times appeals for comparable opportunity with state media journalists regarding access to information of government activities.
Along with prime minster Meles Zenawi’s interview with Aftenposten, Awramba Times has translated an article written by Caelainn Barr of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and tried to draw attention to current status of journalists and press freedom in Ethiopia.
With trial of the two Swedish journalists fast approaching, the government has been severely criticized by many of major publication in the global press; however Addis Admas; another major private Amharic weekly didn’t utter a word about the two Swedish journalists. Rather, Addis Admas did report the deferment of the case of Eskinder Nega, another prominent journalist who has been imprisoned on similar accusations of Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye’s anti-terrorism charges. The Reporter, another bilingual well-known Addis Ababa based newspaper also reported the case in similar vein with Addis Admas, besides activists had set up a website devoted for Eskinder Nega’s immediate liberation.

In contrast, the online media coverage of the case of the Swedish journalists had been relatively high with the creation of a facebook page dedicated to raise funds for legal assistance effort has been more positive with 2,475 likes already registered and the page is being circulated amongst Ethiopian facebooking community.
ZenaEthiopia.com reported that Ethiopia does not want Swedish journalists in sensitive trial but highlighted that Swedish journalists denied visas to Ethiopia to cover the trial of imprisoned colleagues. Furthermore a website known as kilil5.com reported Meles Zenawi’s interview with the Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten and framed the story based on report of the Committee to Protect Journalists as an attempt to fix the outcome of Swedish journalists’ court case. “Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s public accusations on Monday against two imprisoned Swedish journalists compromise the presumption of their innocence and predetermine the outcome of their case, the Committee to Protect Journalists,” reported kilil5.com.

While the media in the rest of the world reporting heavily about jailed journalists in Ethiopia, but most of the Ethiopian press were making admirable developmental, fashion and life style stories for their front pages a lot more is going on amongst the chief members of the private press. The ever dwindling private press of Ethiopia chooses to take no notice of harsh narratives of Ethiopian private press and instead chooses to focus on the constantly ear dampening stories of fashion and development.

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