- 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.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.