Ethiopia: CPJ, AMI delegation meets Minister Bereket Simon

Officials from CPJ and AMI met Minister Bereket Simon last Friday, according to the news posted on the websites of CPJ and the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).Minister Bereket Simon, Head Government Communication Office

The brief news posted by MFA reads:

Communications Office Minister meets a CPJ delegation

Bereket Simon, Minster and Head of the Government Communications Agency, met with member s of the Committee to Protect Journalists last Friday. The delegation included CPJ Board member , Charlayne Hunter-Gault, CPJ Deputy Director, Robert Mahoney andAfrica Media Initiative (AMI) Board member, Dele Olojede.

Discussions covered Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism laws and three Ethiopian and two Swedish journalists who are detained.

Minister Bereket explained that the journalists were not being held for any reports made, but they had been arrested for involvement in anti-government activity and security-related offenses.

He said that the government had not so far invoked the anti-terrorism law against any individual journalist. “It is not an instrument for censorship, for stifling dissent, or for attacking press freedom; it is an instrument that ultimately shall be used to protect Ethiopians enjoying their constitutional rights."

Asked about concerns that the law intimidated journalists, Minister Bereket said: "If there are problems in implementation of any law, the government is ready to sit down and review it."

The Minister acknowledged AMI’s efforts to assist publishers and journalists and made it clear he was always prepared to talk with the country’s private media. AMI member, Dele Olojede, welcomed this, adding, "We also note the government’s expression of support for AMI plans to organize seminars and workshops that will bring together all stakeholders, with the aim of strengthening the independent media in Ethiopia."

The African Media Initiative is a pan-African organization aimed at assisting private and independent media owners and journalists to meet the ongoing challenges of media development on the continent.

CPJ’s website posted a fairly similar news. Except that it notes:

Officials said they would consider allowing a delegation of CPJ and AMI representatives to visit journalists in prison, but no response was forthcoming by the end of the mission.

"We knew when we came to Addis that the chasm between the government and the private media was wide and our visit clarified that," said Hunter-Gault.

"However disappointed we are that we were unable to visit the imprisoned journalists to hear their side of the story, we believe we made the point that a healthy democracy needs a vibrant, even critical media–the kind that exists in free societies the world over–and that Ethiopia’s development, as well as its image in the world, will depend on how it relates to this important feature of a truly democratic society," she said.

You may read CPJ news here – (if it is not blocked)


Note: The official name of Bereket’s office is Office of Government Communication Affairs.

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Daniel Berhane

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