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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ethiopia still on IPI’s Watch List

At the Board Meeting of the International Press Institute, in Edinburgh, Scotland on 29 May 2006, the IPI Executive Board voted unanimously to keep Ethiopia, Nepal, Russia, Venezuela and Zimbabwe on the IPI Watch List.

Speaking generally about the Watch List countries, IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said, "Nepal is the only country on the IPI Watch List where there have been improvements. The restoration of democracy provides hope for the future, but it is important that reforms take hold before any decision is made on the country's status."
"In Ethiopia and Zimbabwe the independent media have been systematically suppressed. The Ethiopian media are currently in disarray because of the government's determination to prosecute some journalists for treason; while, in Zimbabwe, the independent media have been drowned in a deluge of repressive legislation, antagonistic security forces, expensive litigation and red tape that continues to stifle freedom of the press," Commented Fritz.

Resolutions passed by the 55th General Assembly in Edinburgh, Scotland, May 2006
IPI Resolution on Deterioration of Press Freedom in Africa
Meeting at its Annual General Assembly on 29 May 2006 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the IPI membership unanimously adopted a resolution expressing its concern that despite the importance of the African Union's Nepad (New Partnership for African Development), initiative in Africa with its emphasis on peer review of African countries' good political governance, there has been a further deterioration of media freedom on that continent.
As it has stated in earlier resolutions on Nepad and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), IPI affirms that good governance cannot be achieved in a country unless it fosters a free and independent media. However, since the Nepad process began and more countries have submitted to assessment under the APRM, there has been a deterioration in press freedom in Africa.
The serious situation is illustrated by a survey conducted over the last three months leading up to the IPI Annual General Assembly. Many editors and journalists have been arrested and detained, a number physically abused or beaten, a printing press destroyed and papers closed down by the authorities. In addition, legislation which would reduce press freedom has been introduced in two countries.
In that short period of three months, a total of 24 cases in 13 sub-Saharan countries were recorded including action against media personnel and their organizations involving at least 68 journalists, two instances of new legislation being introduced and two major violations.
The other countries where these incidents occurred were Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros Islands, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zamibia.
Perhaps the single most alarming trend in Africa today is the treatment of journalists in Ethiopia. At present, numerous journalists are imprisoned on charges of treason, and face the death penalty or life imprisonment if found guilty. Other countries of concern are the Gambia and Sierra Leone.
IPI calls on the African Union, its agencies and, in particular, the African Commission for Human and People's Rights to impress on its members the need to end these unacceptable practices and to reform their legislation to ensure compliance with the highest standards of freedom of expression and of press freedom and to set new standards of conduct for its officials to ensure that they comply.
International Press Institute (IPI)
Spiegelgasse 2/29
A-1010 Vienna
Tel: + 431-512 90 11
Fax: + 431-512 90 14