Ethiopian Elections: The same old story!

March 23, 2008

As Radio and TV broadcasting is effectively controlled by the EPRDF-led government, the public is finding it very difficult to hear the views of the opposition directly from themselves. Recently, opposition parties in Parliament have negotiated with the ruling party on how to share airtime of the national media and have managed to agree on some arrangements for the period of the election.

In spite of this agreement; however, it seems that the authorities have to go a long way to keep their promise as evidenced in their recent blatant decline to broadcast a campaign message of UEDP-Medhin party. Mr. Gebramlak Teka, from the Ministry of Information, explaining the reasons for this action indicates that it is not acceptable to mention the problems and shortcomings of the last national election. Teka singled out a sentence from the party’s message, “…in addition to having many shortcomings, we recall the 2005 election in our country had undermined international standards by stealing people’s votes, opening ballot boxes as witnessed by foreign observers”. He says such false accusation of the National Election Board is illegal and unacceptable and hence the whole message could not be on air for the public.

In a reply letter to the government-broadcasting agency, UEDP-Medhin cited many foreign communities including the Carter Center, which was invited by the government to monitor the election, as reporting the information quoted in the party’s statement. It is not clear whether the government-controlled media is reconsidering to broadcast the party’s message. Nevertheless, the incident clearly shows how challenging the democratization process in Ethiopia could become. Even a relatively mild critic of the EPRDF-led government is hardly gone unpunished!!

Related link: http://www.uedpmedhin.org/