A current collection of comments and analysis on function of free press in securing food security in Ethiopia
The campaign for press freedom has reached a critical stage in recent weeks. In this context it may be worth collecting commentary from those participating in an effort to regain freedom of the press in Ethiopia – from analysts to reporters to readers. You can also share your opinion on my blog, or throw in a perceptive from elsewhere to this collection.
On top of the countless list free press champions CPJ comes first. Taking the 38th G8 Summit on which Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is expected to take part as an opportunity Joel Simon Executive Director of CPJ wrote a public letter to President Barack Obama.
President Obama has invited Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to attend the G8 Summit to have a discussion about food security on May 19 at Camp David. In the letter Joel Simon highlight the significance of free press in ensuring food security and urge President Obama to raise this issue as a topic of discussion during the summit. He wrote:
Mr. President, we are deeply concerned that Ethiopia’s ongoing repression of investigative journalism fuels tensions that threaten the country’s relative stability and risk unraveling the economic and social progress registered in recent years. Since 2011, under the guise of a counterterrorism sweep, the government of Ethiopia has brought terrorism and anti-state charges against 11 independent journalists, including blogger Eskinder Nega, who may face life in prison for his writing about the struggle for democracy. Such policies deter reporting on all sensitive topics, including food security
Timely and accurate information about conditions of drought and famine in Africa’s Sahel could save lives. But if the press is unable to report freely, how does a country build consensus on tackling national food security and ensure that official policies are the result of broad consultation with all segments of society? What happens when leaders of a nation respond to this caprice of nature by deliberately downplaying the extent of the crisis, limiting journalists’ access to sensitive areas, and censoring independent coverage of the problem, in the name of protecting the country’s image?
On May 19, President Obama and the G8 leaders will have to face some tough questions: What is the moral hazard of endlessly supplying food relief to the Horn countries? Why should the world continue to help a country that leases millions of hectares of the most fertile land in the country and become the breadbasket for India and the Middle East while its people are starving? Why should the world provide food aid to a country when the ruling regime weaponizes the aid to decimate opposition, crush the democratic aspirations of the people and flagrantly violate human rights? Does aiding dictators who use food aid for political purposes end famine and food shortages in Africa?
Graham Peebles, Director of the Create Trust, wrote on Dissident Voice highlighting how Ethiopia muffles critical voices
Journalists must be free to speak out against the government, to criticize policies of persecution, to highlight the suffering of the people and to draw attention to the multiple human rights abuses taking place within Ethiopia.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault wrote on the Root
It is time for me to return to Ethiopia and try to see the prime minister, to plead yet again for the journalists’ freedom and for their right to free expression. And maybe, just maybe, in the interim, when Prime Minister Zenawi attends a G-8 Summit Food Security at Camp David on May 19, American officials can weigh in, too, on the importance not only of strategic partnerships but also of freedom of speech in a democracy.
African Confidential reported that thought Ethiopia is deemed as the fastest growing economy its approach towards independent voices in a contentious way. You can find a series of reports and netzines campaign on Global Voices.