February 20, 2015
(The Washington Post) The Feb. 9 editorial “Ethiopia’s stifled press” raised fundamental issues of human rights, democracy and governance. The journalists and bloggers languishing in prison committed no crime except to criticize the ruling party.
If the government of Ethiopia is concerned for its citizens, as a spokesman asserted in a Feb. 13 letter [“The Ethiopian government’s duty is to protect all of its citizens”], it should respect the rights and views of journalists and civilians who oppose its policies. It is repressive to block popular Web sites and broadcasts, such as Voice of America, that provide an alternative to government-controlled media.
Ethiopians should have the right to voice their concerns about their country’s affairs. Private, independent media outlets facilitate the venue for an open discourse. The government’s persistent attack on press freedom, therefore, will only exacerbate the people’s anguish. No government is perfect. Those who use pens to expose the imperfections should not be subjected to abuse and persecution.
All jailed journalists and bloggers — and many others who are incarcerated for speaking against repression and injustice in Ethiopia — should be freed. It will be one small step on a long democratic journey.