Owner of Weekly Amharic Newspaper Flees Following Government Threats
Addis Tesfa, Executive Editor and Owner of the weekly Amharic newspaper Google, has been forced to flee his home after receiving threats from the Ethiopian government.
The editor told Addis Neger Online that he fled the country after he was beaten by government security agents and received threatening calls from the Office of Government Communication Affairs.
According to Addis, the communication office frequently interfered in the workings of his newspaper, publishing stories on select government issues against his will. “On the eve of the national election held in May 2010, to mention one incident, government interference in our work was beyond our control,” he explained.
“A week before the election, we were forced to publish 50 000 copies which were fully occupied by the government’s agenda,” Addis told Addis Neger Online in a telephone conversation.
Addis also accused both his managing editor, Birhanu Belachew, and Editor-in-Chief Ermias Woubishet of working hand in hand with government agents. However, the editor-in-chief rejected this claim. He told Addis Neger Online that the accusation is false. “There is not any space for mischief without his control. Neither Birhanu nor I were forced to change the newspaper’s issues because of outside threats,” he added.
Yet Addis insists that the newspaper was effectively government-run. Before he left his country, he learned that his bank account had been blocked, despite having invested more than Birr 500 000 in the publishing house. “Because of this reason, my family has faced problems,” he revealed.
Ermias, however, opposes all claims of his executive editor. “Journalism should not be the reason to flee. Addis has fled his home because he embezzled funds. The Bank accounts are under his control; our rules also state that clearly. Hence, nothing happened of his control.”