leading Ethiopian newspaper on Wednesday reproduced a cartoon on its entire
front page showing silhouette of a woman representing press freedom,
blind-folded and being led to a noose to be hanged. It read in bold print
“rescue press freedom from the hangman”.
cartoon protests a controversial press law that was passed on Tuesday by the
Ethiopian parliament despite protests from journalists, publishers and
international media watchdog groups.
These groups say the newly passed
law is restrictive and undermines press freedom in Ethiopia. But the government
views it as a step in the right direction.
Bereket Simon, a special advisor
to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, says despite public fears, the new
law reassures freedom of the press in accordance with the country’s
“The original one was not so
expansive and it does not cover all the necessary areas that should be covered
according to the constitution of ethiopia which recognizes the right to free
Outlining the second reason that
prompted the government to pass new press legislation, Simon said, “The
government believes that it was necessary to introduce additional provisions
that enable citizens to acquire information from the government, such as the
Editors, publishers and
journalists met in the Ethiopian capital on Wednesday to protest and condemn
the law. They said the legislation was passed contrary to the country’s
constitution. But Simon said the press proclamation is derived from the
“In the first place, this law is
derived from the federal constitution which in article 29 fully accepts the
right free expression and has done away with prior censorship.”
Originally the proposed draft
press law was discussed with journalists and other stakeholders as far back as
2004. Bereket Simon chaired the discussions under his previous position as a
minister of information. Simon says the legislation was passed following
discussions with those who are involved in the media business and consequent
consultations with outside experts.
“What we have done since 2004 was
that we have invited consultants from the developed world, they have studied
it, they have advised us, they have come up with a revised version. After
seriously discussing the issues with them we have come up with the revised
Journalists and publishers, however, feel quiet the contrary. They
say important provisions that they have suggested have been excluded in the
legislation enacted by parliament.
They asked the government to re-consider and incorporate amendments that
they discussed in bi-partisan meetings with the government.