Archive | January 28, 2014

Press Release: US Congress Takes a Historic Stance Against Land Grabs-Related Forced Evictions in Ethiopia

Oakland, CA – In a historic move, the US Congress has taken a stance on land grabs-related human rights abuses in Ethiopia. The 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill contains provisions that ensure that US development funds are not used to support forced evictions in Ethiopia.

The bill prevents US assistance from being used to support activities that directly or indirectly involve forced displacement in the Lower Omo and Gambella regions. It further requires US assistance in these areas be used to support local community initiatives aimed at improving livelihoods and be subject to prior consultation with affected populations. The bill goes further and even instructs the directors of international financial institutions to oppose financing for any activities that directly or indirectly involve forced evictions in Ethiopia.

According to Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, “We welcome this move as it aims to address one major flaw of US assistance to Ethiopia. The step taken by the US Congress is very significant, as it signals to both the Ethiopian government and the US administration that turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in the name of development is no longer an option.”

Several reports from the Oakland Institute have raised alarm about the scale, rate, and negative impacts of large-scale land acquisitions in Ethiopia that would result in the forced displacement of over 1.5 million people. This relocation process through the government’s villagization scheme is destroying the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and pastoralist communities. Ethiopian security forces have beaten, arrested, and intimidated individuals who have refused to relocate and free the lands for large-scale agricultural plantations.

Ethiopia’s so-called development programs cannot be carried out without the support of international donors, primarily the US, one of its main donors. Oakland Institute’s on-the-ground research has documented the high toll paid by local people as well as the role of donor countries such as the US in supporting the Ethiopian policy.

This language represents an important first step towards Congress initiating a comprehensive examination of US development practices in Ethiopia. As the oversight authority of the State Department, Congress must now ensure that the law is fully upheld and implemented. This warrants thorough scrutiny of USAID programs to Ethiopia and their contribution to forced resettlements and human rights abuses.

With this bill, USAID, the State Department, as well as the World Bank, will have to reconsider the terms and modalities of the support they provide to the Ethiopian government. According to Frederic Mousseau, Oakland Institute’s Policy Director, “This is a light of hope for the millions of indigenous people in Ethiopia who have sought international support from the international community to recognize their very destruction as communities and people.”

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2014 Golden Pen of Freedom awarded to jailed Ethiopian journalist

Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian publisher, journalist and blogger

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)

Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian publisher, journalist and blogger who is serving an 18-year jail sentence under anti-terror legislation, has been awarded the 2014 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).Mr Nega was arrested on September 14, 2011 after publishing an article criticising his government’s use of the 2009 Anti-Terror Proclamation to jail and silence critics, including Ethiopian actor and activist Debebe Eshetu.  He was sentenced on 23 January 2012 and denounced as belonging to a terrorist organisation.

In making the award, the WAN-IFRA Board sent a message to the Ethiopian government that misusing anti-terror legislation to jail journalists and those critical of his government is unwarranted and against international protocols, including the Vienna Declaration on Terrorism, Media and the Law.

“This award recognises the courage of Eskinder Nega to speak out despite the risks that saw him jailed under his country’s draconian and overly broad anti-terror laws,” said WAN-IFRA President Tomas Brunegård, speaking on behalf of the Board.

“We call on the Ethiopian government to release Eskinder Nega and all journalists convicted under the sedition provisions, including Solomon KebedeWubset TayeReyot Alemu,and Yusuf Getachew”, said Mr Brunegård, who recently visited Ethiopia as part of an international mission that found that the country’s publishers and journalists practice journalism in a climate of fear.

The Golden Pen of Freedom is an annual award made by WAN-IFRA since 1961 to recognise the outstanding action, in writing or deed, of an individual, a group or an institution in the cause of press freedom. More on the Golden Pen can be found athttp://www.wan-ifra.org/node/31099

The award will be presented on 9 June during the opening ceremonies of the World Newspaper Congress, World Editors Forum and World Advertising Forum, the global summit meetings of the world’s press, to be held in Torino, Italy.

In an opinion piece published in the New York Times, Mr Nega said of his imprisonment: “I’ve never conspired to overthrow the government; all I did was report on the Arab Spring and suggest that something similar might happen in Ethiopia if the authoritarian regime didn’t reform… I also dared to question the government’s ludicrous claim that jailed journalists were terrorists.”

WAN-IFRA has been vocal in their opposition to Ethiopia’s misuse of anti-terror legislation, writing to late Prime Minister H.E. Meles Zenawi in 2012 requesting the immediate release of Mr Nega and most recently demanding his release, along with four other imprisoned journalists, in a joint international press freedom mission to Ethiopia, conducted with the International Press Institute. The full report from the international press freedom mission can be found at http://www.wan-ifra.org/node/97172

Mr Nega opened his first newspaper, Ethiopis, in 1993, which was soon shut down by authorities due to its critical reporting. He then, along with his wife Serkalem Fasil, managed Serkalem Publishing House, responsible for newspapers such as Asqual, Satenaw and Menelik, all of which are currently banned in Ethiopia.  He has also had his journalist’s licence revoked since 2005, but continued to publish articles despite the ban.

Mr Nega is no stranger to being imprisoned due to his writings. He was detained at least seven times under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.  This included a 17-month jail sentence, along with his wife, on treason charges for their critical reporting on the Meles government’s violent response to peaceful protests that followed the disputed 2005 elections.

WAN-IFRA, based in Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore and India, is the global organisation of the world’s newspapers and news publishers. It represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. Its core mission is to defend and promote press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.

Posted By Alemayehu Tibebu