The publication of a prominent Ethiopian newspaper has been blocked by government authorities after it featured reports on the health of the Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi.
According to reports from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 30,000 copies of weekly newspaper, Feteh were blocked for “inciting national insecurity and endangering the government and the public."
The Prime Minister’s health has been called into question in recent weeks following his absence from an important regional summit. This was the first time he has missed the meeting since assuming office in 1991, and while rumours suggest that he is undergoing treatment abroad, the government said that he has simply been resting after experiencing exhaustion.
Meles was expected to open the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) meeting on Saturday, but in his absence Senegalese President Macky Sall opened the gathering, telling participants that Meles was unable to attend due "to health conditions."
Feteh’s stories were based on reports by the BBC and a comment from the exiled opposition group, the Ethiopian National Transitional Council.
CPJ said that the ban “illustrates the depth of repression in Ethiopia today, and authorities' determination to suppress independent coverage of the Prime Minister.”
They added that the government had declined to comment on the ban.
Since violent protests after disputed elections in 2005, the Ethiopian government has blocked a number of major news sites and blogs.
Earlier this month, CPJ reported that Ethiopia had extended its censorship laws, prompting concern that its newly developed, sophisticated legal framework could be adopted by other authoritarian regimes in the region.
Also this month, Ethiopia's federal court sentenced prominent dissident blogger Eskinder Nega to 18 years in prison.
According to the CPJ, Feteh’s editor, Temeseghen Desalegn has been under surveillance since the paper’s launch in 2008 and the government has filed more than 30 legal cases against him.
Harsh prison terms
Last January, the Doha Centre for Media Freedom raised the issue of journalists facing "harsh prison terms" in Ethiopia, after an Ethiopian court handed out heavy jail sentences ranging from 14 years to life to three journalists and two politicians on terrorism charges on January 26.
US-based journalist Elias Kifle was sentenced in absentia to life in prison, while two other journalists, Woubshet Taye and Reeyot Alemu, were given 14-year terms.
Swedish journalists, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were arrested in July last year, and have been sentenced to 11 years in prison on terrorism charges.
"At least 11 journalists have been charged with terrorism since November 2011", according to a research conducted by press watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The CPJ has said Ethiopia has one of the most restricted media in the world, with 79 journalists forced into exile since 2001.
Source - AP