The Washington PostBy Editorial Board
By Editorial Board
WHILE ENJOYING its status as an international development darling, Ethiopia has been chipping away at its citizens’ freedom of expression. The country now holds the shameful distinction of having the second-most journalists in exile in the world, after Iran. That combination of Western subsidies and political persecution should not be sustainable.
According to a new report by Human Rights Watch, at least 60 journalists have fled the country since 2010, including 30 last year, and at least 19 have been imprisoned. Twenty-two faced criminal charges in 2014. The government closed five newspapers and a magazine within the past year, leaving Ethiopia with no independent private media outlets. With the country headed toward elections in May, the pressure on the media has undermined the prospect of a free and fair vote.
Ethiopia has long been known for its censorship and repression of the media, but the situation has deteriorated in recent years. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the country has since 2009 “banned or suspended at least one critical independent publication per year.” After the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi in 2012, successor Hailemariam Desalegn has tightened the regime’s stranglehold on the press. Even Ethiopia’s rival Eritrea looks better: It released several imprisoned journalists last month.
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