NAIROBI, Kenya – Ethiopian authorities on Thursday withdrew Addis Ababa Standard’s license, a move widely condemned as a strategy to gag independent media in the conflict-ridden Horn of Africa country.
Ethiopia has been embroiled in a deadly internal war for eight months between the Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] and its partners against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray [TPLF] otherwise known as the Tigray Defense Forces [TDF].
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed indicated the possibility of suspending a ceasefire in Tigray operations after TDF declared victory, signifying an uphill battle in the coming days. Addis Ababa condemned the media for “false information”.
In response, Addis Ababa has since temporarily suspended operations but condemned the state for making the “unilateral” decision to revoke the license without proper explanation.
“For years Addis Standard has been an important source of critical reporting and commentary on Ethiopia. Today’s decision to withdraw its license is the latest demonstration of the government’s hostility to independent journalism, ”said Muthoki Mumo, Committee to Protect Journalists. [CPJ] representative of sub-Saharan Africa.
“The authorities should immediately restore the Addis Standard license, ensure that it can operate independently, and cease all efforts to harass and censor journalists and the media.”
In a tweet, the Addis Ababa Standard said it ceased operations after the Ethiopian Media Authority, the country’s statutory regulator, withdrew the license from the media’s publisher, JAKENN Publishing PLC. The regulator provided no reason for the decision, this statement mentioned.
Addis Standard was established as a magazine in 2011 and became an online-only outlet in 2016 amid government restrictions that led printers to refuse to publish it, according to news reports and the point’s website. of sale.
In 2020, authorities detained Addis Standard editor Medihane Ekubamichael for several weeks without charge, according to a then-CPJ report and an Addis Standard report.
Yonatan Tesfaye, deputy managing director of the media authority, told CPJ in a phone call that the regulator has suspended Addis Standard’s license pending investigation, following complaints that the outlet was compromising Ethiopia’s national security by posting illegal content and “legitimizes terrorist groups.” . ”
He declined to elaborate on specific content cited in those complaints or specific laws the outlet allegedly violated, saying the authority would provide details later.
“The free press is an essential part of democracy. A free press fights for the truth. We are disappointed that EthMediaAuth, without explanation, has suspended the activities of Addis Standard. Censorship, suppression and suppression of the media only occur in authoritarian democracies, “said the Foreign Press Association.
In May this year, Ethiopian authorities expelled New York Times reporter Simon Mark for claiming he was misrepresenting atrocities in the Tigray region. The post shed light on the atrocities committed in northern Ethiopia.
The decision to expel Simon Marks, an Irish journalist living in Ethiopia, was quickly condemned by Reporters Without Borders, who said it was “the first time that a foreign journalist has been expelled from the country” under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.