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» 22.03.2010 - Virus attack on Ethiopian websites
» 10.03.2010 - Ethiopian media get record fines
» 17.12.2009 - Sweden minister speaks on freedom of expression in Ethiopia
» 08.12.2009 - RSF condemns closure of newspaper in Ethiopia
» 24.07.2009 - CPJ worried on new anti-terror legislation
» 02.03.2009 - Ethiopian press ordered to re-register
» 04.11.2008 - Editor jailed for misidentification of a judge
» 12.11.2003 - Ethiopian journalists' association suspended

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Ethiopia agrees to review draft press law

afrol News, 30 September - In response to international media organisations' concerns, Ethiopia's Information Minister has agreed to review certain provisions of the country's controversial draft press law. The Ethiopian government has earlier been the target of harsh criticism over its intention to regulate the country's vivid press.

Years of protests by Ethiopian journalists, editors and their representative organisations have not helped changing the mind of the Information Ministry regarding what the local press calls a repressive media bill. Ethiopian journalists therefore had to call for help from abroad to influence the Ministry.

At a meeting called by the Ministry of Information on Tuesday in Addis Ababa, the Vienna-based International Press Institute IPI), the World Press Freedom Committee, Article 19 and the Windhoek-based Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) discussed the Ethiopian draft press law. The meeting caused optimism among journalists.

During the meeting, the international organisations reiterated their concerns about the draft press law in their previous submissions. In response, the Minister of Information, Bereket Simon, agreed to review certain provisions of the bill that the media institutions regarded as infringing press freedom and freedom of expression.

These included, among others, a willingness of the government to give print media a further opportunity to set up a self-regulating and voluntary press council instead of a statutory press council, and to revise the law on confidentiality of journalistic sources to meet international standards.

Minister Simon also was quoted as saying that journalists would not be licensed and that he would consider reviewing the registration requirements for editors. A possible government licensing of journalists had caused grave concern among Ethiopian media as the practice could be misused to silence critical pens.

While the international organisations in a statement said they believed it was "not necessary in a modern democracy to subject the press to special legislation and regulations," the Ethiopian Minister had insisted on the need for a press law to meet Ethiopian circumstances.

In Ethiopia, the media bill has led to a polarisation between the government and media organisations. The Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA) denounced the bill as a "draconian press law" and launched a campaign to fight it. In November last year, EFJA was suspended as an organisation by the Justice Ministry for not renewing its annual licence for the past three years.

EFJA president, Kifle Mulat, however maintained that the media organisation had been targeted for political reasons. Mr Mulat said that Ethiopian journalists were "fighting this draconian press law and the government does not like that." Government officials strongly denied there were political reasons for closing down EFJA.

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