[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday criticized [HRW report] the Ethiopian government, accusing it of systematically restricting media in anticipation of the country’s May 2015 elections. The 76-page report, entitled “Journalism Is Not a Crime: Violations of Media Freedom in Ethiopia,” indicates that the country’s restriction on media has been part of an effort to curb freedom of expression. According to the report, as a result of the government’s abuse of discretion, 19 journalists have been imprisoned and 60 others have been exiled since 2010, when the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) [official website, in Amharic] won 99.6 percent of the parliamentary seats in the country’s 2010 elections. The report includes interviews with 70 current and former journalists in the country. HRW expressed concern over the restriction, indicating that the media should play a “crucial role” in the upcoming elections. Deputy Africa Director Leslie Lefkow [official profile] stated [press release], “The government should immediately release those wrongly imprisoned and reform laws to protect media freedom.” Lefkow believes this can be done rather easily, without need for significant time or resources, before the elections in May.
Journalism is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, with more than 1,000 journalists killed since 1992 and more than 200 journalists imprisoned [CPJ factsheets]. In July an Ethiopian court charged nine journalists with terrorism and inciting violence [JURIST reports] under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law [text, PDF]. HRW has repeatedly called upon the Ethiopian government to repeal the law, alleging that it stifles the establishment of new media publications [HRW report]. Also in July Amnesty International reported mounting evidence of abductions and violence against activists, protesters and journalists [JURIST report] in eastern Ukraine. Later that month a Myanmar court sentenced four journalists and the chief executive of the Unity Journal [JURIST report] to 10-year prison sentences and hard labor for publishing a story alleging the Myanmar military had seized land in Magwe for the purpose of producing chemical weapons.