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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 November, 2003, 17:29 GMT
Ethiopian press group shut down
By Damian Zane
BBC, Addis Ababa

Kifle Mulat, President of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association, right, with Yves Sorokobi from the Committee to Protect Journalists
Kifle Mulat, right, says the government is determined to shut down the association
The Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association has been suspended.

The association, which claims to be the voice of independent journalists, has existed for 11 years.

It has been threatened with closure for a number of weeks, because, the government said it did not have its paperwork in order.

Ethiopia's independent journalists have not always enjoyed a good relationship with the government, and some see this as a blow to press freedom.

Kifle Mulat, the president of the association, said that the suspension was a political move that had nothing to do with the bureaucratic reasons given.

He said that the government has a vendetta against his organisation because of its opposition to the draft press law, which he describes as oppressive.

No audits

The ministry of justice, which is responsible for registering non-governmental organisations, said that quite simply the journalists' association has not complied with the law.

In a letter it sent to Kifle Mulat, the ministry said that over the last three years the association had failed to renew its licence.

On top of that it had not submitted audited accounts or a statement of its annual performance, which it was required to do.

The journalists' association has complained that it has not had enough time to meet these demands, but the ministry of justice said in the letter that three years was ample time.

It said it had therefore decided to suspend the association pending an investigation into why it has not cooperated.

Personal criticism

Kifle Mulat has complained that the government is simply "finding fault" with the organisation and looking for an excuse to shut it down.

He insisted that the organisation had submitted its reports.

In a plea to the rest of the world Mr Kifle said "please tell the government to leave us alone".

Government officials have in the past criticised Kifle Mulat personally saying that when he was a government journalist under the previous military regime he never once complained about the lack of freedom of expression.

Timeline: Ethiopia
10 Jul 01  |  Africa
Country profile: Ethiopia
29 Jun 02  |  Country profiles

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