Urgent to all media
(October 23, 2023; Addis Ababa) The Ethiopian Media Council is an institution that works for the development of media in our country that serves the people with a sense of responsibility. Public, commercial, registered and licensed by law. It is an institution that is implementing a mutual control system by embracing community media, internet media and professional associations of journalists as members.
Our council has learned from the reports that some media institutions and journalists have been detained outside the law and the hard copy of their publications has been banned, and as a result, the institutions are having difficulty in doing their daily work.
As clearly stated in Article 29 Sub-Article 4 of the Constitution of Ethiopia, “In order to ensure the free flow of information, ideas and opinions necessary for a democratic system, the press shall be protected by law so that it has the freedom of operation and the ability to accommodate different views.” However, since the constitution, there have been legal provisions to protect the right to freedom of expression, but in recent times, the journalists and publications of media institutions registered and licensed according to the law of the country have been abducted by the security forces.
As an example, Ghion magazine, which is published weekly by Ethio Habesha publishing company, and its editor-in-chief were arrested by the police on August 29, 2023, and the editor-in-chief was released without charges for a week, but the magazine was not let to distributed for more than a month and 15 days. After the program director of Tirta FM 97. 7 was taken from his home by security forces on 10th of September 2023, he was not charged for more than one month and 20 days, and he could not be brought to court.
As clearly stipulated in Article 85/7 of the new press Proclamation No. 1238, before the distribution of a periodical publication, a suspension order issued by the authorities must specify the article or articles that form the basis of the order, the form of the publication, and the edition in which the article was published. The ban will only apply to publications intended for distribution. However, since Ghion Magazine was taken into custody by the police, it was investigated according to the decree and it was not confirmed whether there was any danger, and no charges were brought to the court within 48 hours.
On the other hand, any person or entity suspected of committing a criminal act through the media should be brought to court directly through the public prosecutor without being detained for further investigation in accordance with the provisions of the criminal procedure law. However, journalist has been in prison without charge for weeks, contrary to the decree. Security agencies, who have the constitutional obligation to take immediate legal action when preventing crimes before they are committed, arresting journalists, gathering information, detaining them for days and not filing charges, as well as banning the publication from circulation is an act that hinders the media institutions from carrying out their work freely.
Even in difficult times, we believe that the accountability of journalists and media outlets should only be carried out according to the law; However, the fact that this is happening has cast a shadow on the image of the country at the international level. For the past five years, the judicial body has been undergoing various reforms, but the inability to prevent repeated violations of the law against journalists and institutions is of great concern to our council. In order to solve the problem, the House of People’s Representatives is reporting the matter to the Emergency Proclamation Investigation Board and is monitoring it.
As it has the responsibility to prevent, investigate and ensure accountability of criminal activities, we request that the justice system fulfill its constitutional duty by correcting illegal criminal activities as soon as possible by making the violations of rights committed against journalists and media institutions only in accordance with the law, even in difficult times.
Executive Committee of Ethiopian Media Council
October 23, 2023, Addis Ababa;