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Who says journalists are above the law?

By Dilwenberu Nega
July 06 2011

Close on the heels of the arrest of Feth’s columnist Reeyot Alemu and Awramba Times’ Deputy Editor-in Chief, Woubshet Taye, Britain’s Metropolitan Police had also announced that it would launch an investigation into phone hacking by the British Sunday tabloid News of the Word. The |House of Commons is also expected to demand Prime Minister David Cameron establish an independent enquiry headed by a judge to get to the bottom of phone hacking by journalists. This news item, then, smacks at the line of argument of all those who have been condemning the Federal Police.

Whenever irresponsible journalists are caught in the act of be it defamation, inciting violence or aiding and abetting anti-peace forces in Ethiopia, the amount of hue and cry that comes out from the Government’s gung-ho critics simply defies rational thinking. Blind opponents of EPDRF, who suffer from an allergy to veracity, seem to suggest that because journalists are the “eyes and ears of society” they must be immune from arrest. Infantilism of this nature places our national security in a vulnerable situation. Not all journalists are doves. The history of the world is full of wolves in sheep clothing journalists. Outwardly they portray all the finer qualities of a patriot, but deep down they are the on-the-spot-agents of destabilizing forces. Besides, freedom of thought, speech and writing is bestowed on every Ethiopian irrespective of their profession: the freedom of speech which a journalist enjoys in Ethiopia and USA is no greater in scope and manner than the freedom enjoyed by a dustman. Why is it then that EPDRF’s cyber-critics feel that injustice has been served to freedom of speech by the arrest of two journalists on charges of aiding and abetting Elias Kifle – the notorious quisling who works hand in glove with Shabia?

When arguing about freedom of press in Ethiopia nothing affirms better to the world that press freedom under EPDRF is safe and sound than to be witness to Eskinder Nega’s weekly mendacious commentaries and his calls for a Face book nudged revolt to overthrow a democratically elected EPDRF. If this is not tolerant par excellence on the part of EPDRF, I want to know what is. You might like to reassure yourself that as I write Eskinder Nega is a freeman in a free and democratic Ethiopia. Sadly however, it is ‘journalists’ like Eskinder Nega who now are arguing that states must have no right to defend national security from treacherous journalists. A degree of calling a spade a spade is called for here because society demands to know the absolute truth. It has been made public that ‘journalist’ Elias Kifle enjoys ‘special relations’ with the very person who is bent on “Bagdadnizing Addis Ababa” – President Isais Afewerki. While it may be viewed as his democratic right to go and interview Asmara’s strongman, what is wrong and a blatant act of treason is to reduce oneself into a myrmidon of Shabia’s plan to destabilize Ethiopia. Who in his rightful mind would then be a conduit for funds from Elias Kifle, the avatar of Isaias Afewrki?

For yet another ‘journalist’ notorious for continually portraying Ethiopia as a land of aceldama the arrest of the two journalists shows that the Ethiopian Government views journalists as terrorists. Abebe Gelaw is better placed to produce a far more insightful analysis than what is for all intents and purposes balderdash. To conclude that Reyot Alemu and Wubeshet Taye’s arrest on terrorism charges is a clear indication of the Government’s resolve to view Ethiopia’s press corps as terrorist, is tantamount to concluding that because the former IMF Head, Strauss Kahn, was arrested on charges of rape, every head of international financial institution is concupiscent. If such an analysis from Abebe is to be taken as his contribution to the toxic Diaspora’s tedious efforts of portraying the Government of Ethiopia as anti freedom of press, then Abebe has failed miserably. It simply beggars belief how a student of journalism is not familiar with the celebrated case of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s “Gagging order” which had placed fines and prison sentences on journalists who went ahead airing the spoken words of members of outlawed terrorist organizations in the United Kingdom. Here is a classic case of a Government of a free and democratic nation applying strict rules of censorship in order to deny terrorist the oxygen of publicity. Journalists are not above the law. Like you and me they should be made to face the music when they abuse their freedom to be the eyes and ears of society.