First, I wish to thank UNESCO and its staff for granting UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. I was so impressed when I heard you grant me this great award. The award is not only for me but also for all individuals and institutions that struggle for press freedom around the world. Since this message is presented on World Press Freedom Day, I wanted to say a lot on it. But the situations I live on don’t allow me.
Next, I want to say congratulation for the journalists who live in democratic governments. Enjoy the day very well. You are very lucky. You can write or make programmes on the issues you need. You can admire or criticize your government policies or officials and live peacefully. You can even joke on them and nobody do bad things on you because of it.
But for us, the journalists who live in undemocratic governments like Ethiopia, it is a matter of life or death, be arrested or not, living in our country or flee to other countries. As you understand, it is very hard. No one wants to live this kind of tragic life. We also. But we have only two bad choices. Either stop thinking and writing independently and serve the dictators’ need or continue thinking and writing independently and serve the truth. Some of us choose the second one and we are receiving the prices for our choice.
I can mention some illustrations. Addis Neger newspaper staff were forced to shutdown their newspaper and live in exile because of their logical critics they wrote on our government. Feteh, Awramba Times, other newspapers and their staff are also the victims of our dictatorial regime. Temesge Desalegne is suffering at the hands of tyrants in many ways because of his loyalty to his profession. The courageous and devoted journalist Eskinder Nega is repeatedly arrested. Imagine!
All of these bad treatments of journalists I mentioned have been done after the election of 1997 in E.C. It is difficult to count how many journalists were hurt and their newspapers and magazines are now in defunct before and after that. I have no doubt this will continue as long as EPRDF is on power. When I think about it, I am very worried for those whose voices were heard only through the voices of journalists.
I am very worried for those who are labeled as terrorists and imprisoned because of only they struggle for their rights in a peaceful way. I am very worried for those whose fertile land is being given to multinational corporations and they are in trouble. I am very worried for those poors who can’t get even safety nets because they aren’t the member of the ruling party. Since the journalists are in prison, exile or in trouble, who will expose their hidden truths?
Dear participants of this ceremony and people who follow the programme by different ways, I will ask you to do all of the things you can to stop this suppression of press. Thank you.