Gov’t Must Balance Human Rights, Security

Amir Aman, an accredited Associated Press video reporter, Thomas Engida, a freelancer journalist, and Tamirat Negera of Terara Network, are some of the names that one can mention to argue that Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) regime may not be so different from its predecessors when it comes to freedom of expression, after all. One can also add the names of 16 journalists and media personnel who have been imprisoned in a new wave of crack down in the capital Addis Ababa and State of Amhara, with some being subsequently released. Some reports claim that journalists like Temesgen Desalegn of Fitih Magazine might have been physically hurt in the hands of the police.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and global press watch dogs have been expressing concern over the arrest and the treatment of journalists while the government claims it has serious security implications to let these people keep talking.

“No claim about the alleged offence committed through media justifies violation of the newly adopted media law which clearly prohibits pre-trial detention of persons charged with committing an offence through the media,” Human Rights Commission Head Daniel Bekele said in a statement.

The government issued a warning statement to the media: “The government will continue to take irreversible measure on individuals involved in illegal activities who are planning and working to create havoc and chaos, also on those wearing a cloak of media outlets and journalists.”

Since the early 1990s, Ethiopia has been jailing journalists with Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch saying these journalists are actually being held because they have criticized the government or reported on sensitive topics such as protests or human rights abuses. In 2022, Reporters Without Borders ranked Ethiopia 114th out of 180 countries on its World Press Freedom Index. This ranking is a stepdown from 101 in 2021.

Ethiopia has often been considered to be one of Africa’s most repressive countries when it comes to freedom of expression. However, many thought it would be different this time.

Ultimately, freedom of expression is beneficial for the government, the public, businesses and consumers alike. It encourages innovation and creativity while also promoting transparency and accountability. So long as this fundamental right is protected, businesses will continue to thrive in a healthy community.

In addition, freedom of expression helps businesses stay competitive by promoting transparency and accountability. By allowing employees to openly criticize their company or its leaders, businesses can identify potential problems early on and fix them before they become bigger issues. Furthermore, when customers or clients know that they can express their concerns freely without fear of retribution, they are more likely to do business with that company.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right that should be protected at all costs. It allows for open dialogue and the exchange of ideas, which is essential in a thriving democracy. However, national security must also be taken into consideration. Balancing these two competing interests can be difficult, but it is important to find a way to protect both freedom of expression and national security.

One way to achieve this balance is through effective communication between the government and the public. The government should be transparent about its plans and actions, while the public should remain vigilant in monitoring their government’s activities. This open dialogue will help ensure that both freedom of expression and national security are upheld.

Another way to strike this balance is through judicial oversight. The courts can play an important role in ensuring that any restrictions on freedom of expression are justified and proportionate to protecting national security interests. This ensures that individuals’ rights are not violated unnecessarily, while still allowing for necessary measures to protect against terrorism or other threats to national security. EBR

10th Year •June 2022 • No. 108

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