With national elections in Ethiopia fast approaching, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi appears intent on controlling both the medium and the message. Reports of the harassment of opposition political figures and interfering with international media broadcasts into the country undermine the image of his government, and if the polling is to be credible, it must be an open process.
Following the jamming of the Voice of America’s radio broadcasts in Ethiopia’s dominant Amharic language for the last four weeks, the government there appears to now have turned its attention to VOA’s Internet service in the East African nation. Numerous reports have been received that VOA’s website is unavailable inside Ethiopia, where individuals both inside and out of Africa often turn when they cannot get a radio signal.
The prime minister accused VOA of broadcasting destabilizing propaganda and has admitted seeking ways to block it. Committed to broadcasting unbiased and comprehensive news throughout the world, VOA initiated satellite broadcasts into Ethiopia and is exploring other ways to get its programs through.
While a friend and supporter of Ethiopia, the United States nevertheless cannot remain silent on such actions and censorship, which run counter to the country’s constitution. It is watching with great interest and encourages all parties there to act responsibly during the election campaign. An election cannot be run under the guise of democratic process if all candidates cannot participate freely and state their case or if political news is suppressed.