Congressmen to Zenawi: Stop Persecution of Journalists

Members of Congress urge Meles to end repression

By Mohammed Keita | CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator

Two members of the U.S. Congress, a Republican and a Democrat, have publicly voiced indignation at Ethiopia’s persecution of journalists under the leadership of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, with both declaring that stability and security are enhanced by press freedom.

Sen. Mark Begich, an Alaska Democrat, published a statement Monday in the Congressional Record, the official daily journal of the U.S Congress, following the Camp David G8 Summit last weekend during which President Barack Obama convened four African leaders, including Meles of Ethiopia, for talks on food security in Africa.

In a letter to Obama, CPJ urged the president to engage Meles on ending Ethiopian censorship practices–such as suppressing independent reporting and denying media access to sensitive areas–that undermine international responses to food crises.

“I want to take this opportunity to address the necessity for the United States to help foster stable and democratic nations as partners as we build multilateral coalitions to tackle global issues,” Begich said in his statement. Ethiopia is a key partner of the United States in counterterrorism and regional stability and a major recipient of U.S. humanitarian assistance. Recalling Obama’s 2011 commitment to a G8 declaration on democracy, Begich declared that “as the events in North Africa and the Middle East have shown, supporting reliable autocrats who are helpful on matters of security and economics at the expense of human dignity, basic democratic rights, and access to economic opportunity is more perilous than ever to long-term U.S. national security interests.”

Begich called for the end of the persecution of independent journalists and dissidents rounded up in Ethiopia in the wake of the Arab Spring. “To foster the benefits of a diverse citizenry, the many political prisoners and journalists should be released,” he said. The senator urged colleagues in the U.S. Congress to join him in helping the citizens and government of the Horn of Africa country achieve a national consensus on the value of the free flow of information and make press freedom, as outlined in Ethiopia’s constitution, a reality. “Such are hallmarks of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and they provide a return of accountability and transparency to both American taxpayers and Ethiopian citizens,” he added.

On Friday, Rep. Edward Royce sent a public letter to Meles in which he expressed “deep concern with the Republic of Ethiopia’s disregard for press freedom.” Royce, a California Republican who chairs a House subcommittee on terrorism, said “national security must not cripple press freedom.” Expressing concern over the prosecution of 11 journalists on terror charges, Royce said that “the judicial process clearly fails to meet international standards,” citing as an example the government’s use of national public media to pressure the courts.

Over the weekend, hundreds of Ethiopian expats gathered near Camp David to protest the country’s slide into authoritarianism, according to news reports. Washington is home to one of the largest Ethiopian diaspora communities in the world, a population that includes three Ethiopian journalists charged in absentia with terrorism in relation to their work, according to CPJ research. A fourth journalist, now languishing in a prison in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, was educated in the Washington area before returning to Ethiopia and launching one of the country’s first independent newspapers. The former editor of another independent Ethiopian paper also lives in Washington after fleeing his homeland in the face of government intimidation.

8 thoughts on “Congressmen to Zenawi: Stop Persecution of Journalists

  1. Mamo on

    Unfortunately this mean nothing when billions of dollars pour in support of the tyrant.

  2. Koratu Meri on

    I watched the fall of Meles from grace in the hands of a man who is armed only with the power of his words and the passion of yearning for freedom.

    Although I would not rise Meles the killer to leveles of the failed leader George Bush, the moment can be equated to the shoe throwing Bush was dealt by in Iraq.

    Abebe Gelaw is a hero for a good cause.

    You are indeed a HERO. You used your verbal power whereas the coward and wicked Meles and his followers know only the language of aggression and brute force uttering only “We will kill you!”. You used civilized bullets of words whereas the uncivilized can only use the sheer force of blood and iron. What a difference? A coward and uncivilized person is one who cannot rise up to be tolerant and who is incapable of using only the power of ideas. That person is also afraid of being judged by his people because he knows that he has found and retains what he does not deserve.

    What struck me most is not simply the embarrassment and making the king naked in front of the whole world. What struck me highest was to have realized that Meles is a dumb drama-king who has bought the character he is playing in the world stage as being his real nature. I thought the “intelligent, well-read and visionary” veil was something sold for us to believe. Not the other way around where he, supposedly the cunning politician, would buy into believing. This foolishness of Meles was revealed in his anger and desperation at that crushing moment. If Meles had not believed that he is as great as the PR image he toiled to create for himself, he would not had been aching with anger. I thought that he knew that he is not extraordinary but just the “English-speaking dictator” he is. I though Meles knew better than believing the character he created for his followers. But why do dictators always believe that they are great? I thought he knew better that that. He is only the Koratu Meri for aigaforum and his brain-childs.

    Meles is as his organization defines him “the Tigrian liberator”. He cannot wear a suit that is wider than Tigray and I cannot see him any larger than that. He is just the Tigray liberator. He is as small as that.

    So Meles felt crushed the same way he is crushing the hopes and dreams of millions. I do not want to be his heart that was pounding with rage, disbelief and awe. That was a cringing moment for him to remember and unable to erase it from people’s minds.

    I am happy that people in Ethiopia had discovered the method to watch it in a creative manner. Thanks to the internet.

    That was a defining time for Meles and the world over. What Meles tried to construct in the minds of the world – and most importantly in the minds of the Diaspora and the people – was deconstructed to utter collapse in 50 seconds. What an amazing world! No one can now try me believe that Meles is anything other than the “English-speaking DICTATOR” who is the leader of the Tigray Liberation.

    The cycles of history is always the same – the strength of the oppressed always grows as they grow inpatient with what they are denied whereas the strength of the oppressors declines with such lightening attacks and as time takes the better of them. Our good days are just ahead of us!

  3. Anonymous on

    Let’s hope this doesn’t end up being another lip service by another politician.
    It is unfortunate and very sad that the brutal crimes dictator Meles and his criminal TPLF gangs have been committing on Amharas haven’t been mentioned by this congress man. Very sad indeed that the poor Amharas have been blamed by every ethnic groups for everything that gone wrong in Ethiopia, regardless the past leaders were 100% Amhara or not. Where are the Amhara scholars? when are you going to speak in behalf of your ethnic group who are suffering at the hands of the ruthless TPLF?

  4. BERTTA on


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  5. Waldeba on

    Which one is the next embassy we gonna go protest?

    Might be Djibouti to close it’s port for import and export or Egypt to bomb the millennium dam site.

    Dayaspora ena gundan baylutim meselef yiwodal alu!!

    Long live Ethiop[ia and death for Shabia!!!

    • Treaty on

      You ligagam weyane don’t no what you are talking about. Let me tell you embiltaw is already teneftual, every one is ready to die for their faith. Our case is well publicized among the body of world organizations, and TPLF won’t not be permitted to massacre our people. We will allow U.N to intervene ,if need be, the moment we sense danger posed to our people by primitive savages. Once the provisional government is established this body will represent Ethiopians to negotiate with the nation of Israel to take out the weyane air force in the moment of hostility.

      You really miscalculated Ethiopians determination and resolve to liberate their country form primitive savages. You said, “Diaspora ena gundan baylutim meselef yiwodal alu!!”I am glad you said it.I say this prideful statment will hurl you quicker to the pit.We have already broke the ice-our collective fear is broken. The motto of the hour for me is this “occupier TPLF leave my neck of the wood now!”
      God willing the Ethiopian mass is ready to pay the needed sacrifice and send weyane to its dust bean. This is a moment of truth for the children of Ethiopians. Every segment of Ethiopians is coming together, and we have marked and isolated our enemy: the TPLF polit-bureau and its elite. As of now TPLF is a messenger of Satan and all Ethiopians Christians and Muslims are prepared for it. The Christians must rise under the Motto of TPLF “yemariam Telat and let every Christian stone its leaders to the ground” Likewise let the Muslims rise together with their Christian brothers and say “TPLF Harem Let every Muslim put its hand upon her”.

    • Anonymous on

      I love this comment. Indeed just like the wedo gebba members also known as awkwardly Ferto gebba or YPFDJ, they like meselef for anything even when not asked to do so.

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