Netizens have stepped up their efforts to draw attention to Ethiopia’s independent media situation as the G8 Summit in the United States approaches. Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and three other African heads of state are expected to attend.
Of late, there has been much talk about Ethiopia’s fast economic growth and increased crackdown on media. While the state media continuously highlights economic achievements, netizens maintain that free press is key to stable economic growth and food security. Africa's food security is on the agenda for the upcoming G8 Summit which will be held at Camp David in Maryland from 18-19 May, 2012.
Several media and human rights organisations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have been highlighting the relationship between free press and food security.
Dear President Obama:
As you prepare to host the G-8 summit and discuss the security of food supplies with leaders from Africa, we call on you to strongly consider the role of an independent press in identifying and assessing agricultural challenges and famine, and facilitating the national and international response to food crises.
Mr. President, we are deeply concerned that Ethiopia’s ongoing repression of investigative journalism fuels tensions that threaten the country’s relative stability and risk unraveling the economic and social progress registered in recent years. Since 2011, under the guise of a counterterrorism sweep, the government of Ethiopia has brought terrorism and anti-state charges against 11 independent journalists, including blogger Eskinder Nega, who may face life in prison for his writing about the struggle for democracy. Such policies deter reporting on all sensitive topics, including food security
Charlayne Hunter-Gault hopes that issues around press freedom in Ethiopia will come up during the summit:
It is time for me to return to Ethiopia and try to see the prime minister, to plead yet again for the journalists’ freedom and for their right to free expression. And maybe, just maybe, in the interim, when Prime Minister Zenawi attends a G-8 Summit Food Security at Camp David on May 19, American officials can weigh in, too, on the importance not only of strategic partnerships but also of freedom of speech in a democracy.
Alemayehu G. Mariam, an activist based in the US, asks, “Does aiding dictators who use food aid for political purposes end famine and food shortages in Africa?”:
On May 19, President Obama and the G8 leaders will have to face some tough questions: What is the moral hazard of endlessly supplying food relief to the Horn countries? Why should the world continue to help a country that leases millions of hectares of the most fertile land in the country and become the breadbasket for India and the Middle East while its people are starving? Why should the world provide food aid to a country when the ruling regime weaponizes the aid to decimate opposition, crush the democratic aspirations of the people and flagrantly violate human rights? Does aiding dictators who use food aid for political purposes end famine and food shortages in Africa?
Endalk summarises online commentaries about press freedom and food security in Ethiopia:
The campaign for press freedom has reached a critical stage in recent weeks. In this context it may be worth collecting commentary from those participating in an effort to regain freedom of the press in Ethiopia – from analysts to reporters to readers. You can also share your opinion on my blog, or throw in a perceptive from elsewhere to this collection.
Some Ethiopians in the Diaspora have gone as far as urging President Obama to rescind his invitation of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. A Group of Ethiopians calling themselves Ethiopian National Transition Council posted a call on their Facebook page to detain Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at Camp David:
This is a call for all Ethiopians who love their country and are courageous enough to come and face him off, show your anger and disgust, and be heard loud and clear that his invitation is immoral and unacceptable and that he should never be allowed to touch American soil in respect of the millions who are his victims and suffering at home and abroad. This is a call for President Obama to stand by many Ethiopians who stood by you during your election in 2008. President Obama we got your back on your election and now it is your turn to show us to what extent you go to be on our side.
However, Daniel Berhane thinks that it is important for Zenawi to participate. He points out that Zenawi has been participating in the G-8 annual summits since year 2005.
*Thumbnail: Courtesy of EYOUTHM Facebook group.