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Ethiopia: Feteh Newspaper’s Distribution Banned

Temesgen of Feteh

22 July 2012 [ESAT]

The last remaining weekly private newspaper, Feteh, didn’t show up on the market as expected on Friday. Initially there were reports of refusal by the government printing house to print this week’s edition siting politically sensitive story on the paper on Friday. After a failed reported negotiation to cut out the alleged controversial story the printing house officials agreed to print the paper on Friday for a one day late distribution.

The paper’s editor-in-chief Temesgen Desalegn and his colleagues spent a good 1 hour and half discussing with the printing house’s senior officials to secure the release of their paper.  The officials were adamant to print the paper.

Federal prosecutor Berhanu Wendimagegn, and Vice Minister of Justice Mohammed Abagisa tried to pressure the editors to agree to cut out the alleged ‘politically sensitive’ story.

The newspaper publishers stood their ground in refusing to excise a story from this week’s edition quoting a paragraph from the country’s constitution on citizen’s right to publish without a government censure which seemed to have gained acceptance by the authorities on Friday and hence the publication of a reported 30,000 copies.

Reports coming from Ethiopia showed that the printing house was allegedly given a nod from Federal Antiterrorism Taskforce, Security and Intelligence officials, and Ministry of Justice to go ahead and print the papers as originally prepared by the editors. The printing job was completed Friday overnight under a close scrutiny of a slew of security agents.

However the government printing house sent a letter to the newspaper editors mentioning its refusal to release the printed papers on the grounds of ‘national security.

Temesgen told our reporter his disappointment at the refusal of the printing house initially to print and later to release the paper’s this week edition.  He had to tell the officials that their refusal to publish his paper is inexcusable by any measure and history will not see their deeds kindly.  In his exchange with the officials Temesgen had to question their authority to refuse a publication on the basis of its content when censure is legally abolished several years ago.

The alleged ‘politically sensitive’ story the government and hence the printing house requested for excision relates to a headline in relation to the purported death of the country’s prime minster.

Temesgen concluded his conversation remarking how dire the press and political environment has become in the country.

In a related news the owner and manager of Horizon Printing House is said to have been apprehended by police.  The reason for his incarceration is not yet clear.