Statement of the Board of Directors of the Oromia Media Network (OMN) on Ethiopia’s Prime Minister’s Speech on Foreign Based Ethiopian Media Organizations

For Immediate Release

In a speech delivered in Hawassa, Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, stated:

“Many have said that the democratic space should be expanded. I want to state in public today. There are people who, from their media stations in the United States, claim that they speak, write, harangue and express for the sake of Ethiopia’s democracy. I want to state from this podium that we want them to locate the headquarters of their media organization in Addis Ababa.”

This is an encouraging statement. Ironically, the speech was delivered on the same day OMN satellite broadcast was forced off the air for 27th time in 4 years by the action of the Ethiopian government. One has to suspend incredulity to reconcile the prime minister’s rhetoric in Hawassa with the action of his government in Addis Ababa. Regardless, we want to take up the prime minister on his promise. We believe the the prime minister can begin to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality by allowing OMN satellite broadcast to resume its service and unblocking our website.

For media organizations such as OMN to relocate their head qaurters and operations in Addis Ababa, further steps must be taken.

1. OMN and its executive director, Jawar Mohammed, were charged for violations of the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2009. These trumped-up charges must be lifted immediately. And parliament must repeal the law to ensure free media wouldn’t be ensnared again under more trumped-up charges.

2. OMN is a media organization that promote freedom of speech and the unencumbered flow of ideas. It can not operate under the restrictive Press Law currently in effect in Ethiopia. Parliament must rescind the law as soon as possible.

3. A free media cannot function under a state of emergency currently in effect in Ethiopia. Parliament must repeal the draconian state of emergency to allow the private media to operate freely.

If these steps are taken, we can take the prime minister’s pronouncements seriously. 
We hold out hope, against heavier odds, that the prime minister means what he says. Given the incumbent government’s track record of broken promises, however, we suspect that the prime minister’s invitation to “media organizations in the United States” is another round of window dressing. But we are happy to be proven wrong and recognize that the new prime minister of Ethiopia is determined to usher in a new political dispensation in Ethiopia.

Kitaba Megersa 
Secretary of Board of Trustees

Oromia Media Network

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