By Scott A Morgan
The closing of the Addis Neger Newspapers in Ethiopia should be of great concern. The Country is in the midst of an Election Campaign that should be a source of concern for those who are concerned about Human Rights and US Policy in the Horn of Africa.
The Current Regime of Meles Zenawi has been a close ally of the United States for several Administrations. On three different occasions Ethiopian Ground Forces crossed over into Somalia in proxy for the United States. Also the tensions with neighboring Eritrea have yet to be resolved and do not appear to be reaching a climax anytime soon.
A Previous Effort to link US Military Aid to the Human Rights Climate inside Ethiopia (HR 2003) passed the House of Representatives but then stalled in the Senate. However the US has still tried to show an evenhanded approach to Addis Ababa by maintaining contacts with some of the Political Parties that are in Opposition to the Current Government.
Why should the US be concerned regarding the closing of the Addis Neger? Freedom of the Press is an inherent value to America. It has been duly noted that the Neger was a critical outlet of the policies of the Zenawi Government. Silencing a critic has always been an action taken by a despot who wants to maintain control under any circumstance. Before this Media Outlet ceased Operation it was the target of vitriolic attacks by the State Controlled Media outlets.
After the controversial elections of 2005 which resulted in the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front remaining in power under some controversial conditions there were violent protests. As a result of these events thirteen independent news outlets were forced to cease operations as well as dozens of people either perishing or being arrested. In General Democratic Societies do not take actions like this when there is a controversial event.
In the relative scope of Ethiopian Politics the Neger was one of the new sources of information. Starting Operations in September 2007, before it ceased Operations it had a circulation of 30,000. This made it one of the largest non-government sources of information. Now this voice has been silenced by those who support the ruling party. Not a good harbinger of events to come…
(The author regularly writes on US Policy towards Ethiopia. His blog, Confused Eagle, can be found at confusedeagle.livejournal.com)