Ethiopia now threatening death penalty for journalists criticizing government

Ethiopian press freedoms have severely deteriorated since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power. Source Economist

Ethiopia is now planning possible executions for reporters who speak out against the government. When Abiy Ahmed first came to power in 2018 he promised new press freedoms as a part of his overall program of democratic reform. Government spokesman stated that  “freedom of expression and the protection of the press are sacred values that are enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution.” To the contrary in February 2021 a new law was passed creating the Ethiopian Media Authority which “accredits journalists”. Without this accreditation news reporting services and their reporters can be seized and detained without cause. New laws were declared that anyone who in the government’s opinion speaks out against the government is threatening the constitution. Many journalists have left the country for fear of imprisonment.

Two Ethiopian journalists from the Oromo region, Dessu Dulla and Bikila Amenu,  who have been jailed without charges since November 2021 have now been told they face a possible death penalty for allegedly speaking against the government. At least another 21 journalists are also said to be in peril of a death penalty. The exact number of journalists currently imprisoned in Ethiopia is unknown but the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders now say the Ethiopia has emerged as being among the world’s most oppressive regimes against a free press.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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