Friday, July 27, 2012

Where is Meles Zenawi? Ethiopians don't know (By Tom Rhodes/CPJ East Africa Consultant)

(July 26, 2012, By Tom Rhodes/CPJ East Africa Consultant, CPJ)--If you search for the name of Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, on Twitter these days, you'll see a flurry of incongruent postings: Meles is hospitalized in critical condition; he's fine and returning to work; he died two weeks ago; he's on holiday.

Journalists for international news outlets have tried to sort out fact from rumor, but they've gotten no help from Ethiopian government officials who offered only vague assurances that the country's longtime leader was ill but recovering.

In Ethiopia, where the government has imposed increasingly repressive measures on the domestic press corps, news coverage has been minimal and contradictory. International news outlets, such as Reuters, The Associated Press, and the BBC, reported last week that Meles was hospitalized for an undisclosed condition. Reuters, citing diplomatic sources, said he was being treated in Brussels, although even that scant nugget of information was not officially confirmed.

Back home, generally pro-government papers such as Addis Fortune told readers on Tuesday that Meles had returned to Addis Ababa and would be back to work soon. The paper reported that the government provided little other information on his condition. A day later, though, the weekly The Reporter claimed that Meles was merely abroad on holiday.

The government censored the one domestic outlet that tried to report more detailed information. This weekend, the government ordered the state-run printing company not to produce the latest edition of the weekly Feteh, which was to have carried front-page coverage of Meles' condition. The weekly, which has faced government harassment in the past over its critical coverage, had prepared stories citing information from international news outlets and an exiled Ethiopian group.

"No one has a clear idea," said Benno Muechler, a German freelance reporter based in the capital. Muechler said he tried to get answers from the government communications office--only to be asked by officials there if he had any leads he could share. "There is an information blackout in Ethiopia," said exiled journalist Abebe Gellaw, who works for the critical exiled broadcaster Ethiopian Satellite Television.

Gellaw noted that most Ethiopians get their information from the national broadcaster, which has vaguely reported that Meles is fine and would be back at his desk soon. But then, where is Meles, and why can't he say this himself? "There is no trust in the media, with so many rumors. Whatever news that comes out here, nobody seems to believe it," Muechler said. Read more from Committee to Protect Journalists »

Related topics:
“Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in stable condition -The issue of stepping down has not been raised,” says Ethiopia’s Government spokesman
Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi Health Status Report
Recovering' Zenawi Returns to Addis - Source
Mystery of the sick and missing PM
Ethiopian Prime Minister Said to be Receiving Treatment in Europe

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

God may save him!

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