Ethiopia targets international media in Tigray battle

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Ethiopia targets foreign media in Tigray conflict

NAIROBI, Kenya – The Ethiopian government has now turned its attention to foreign media, which it accuses of spreading hatred and disinformation, amid the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region, where the federal army has carried out an operation targeting the Popular Front. Liberation of Tigray. [TPLF].

Media regulators have accused anonymous foreign news houses of allegedly misinterpreting the war-torn Tigray region, which has garnered sympathy from the international community in recent months.

“By reviewing and monitoring the reports, the Ethiopian Media Authority [EMA] found that some foreign media repeatedly characterize [the Tigray People’s Liberation Front – TPLF] as a national army by calling it the Tigray Defense Force or TDF, ”said an official statement issued on Friday on agency letterhead and sent to VOA.

The regulator has already warned two media houses, including the expulsion of New York Times journalist Simon Mark in May, accused of having exaggerated the situation in the Tigray region.

The statement sent to VOA, signed by agency chief Yonatan Tesfaye Regassa, comes a day after the EMA revoked the Addis Standard publisher’s license, accusing the monthly magazine and news site of advance the agenda of a “terrorist group”, without providing further details.

Addis Ababa Standard is one of the independent media houses in Ethiopia, and its license was revoked following allegations that it favored the Tigray Defense Forces. The news site also received sympathy from the international community, which accused Ethiopia of gagging the media.

This “terrorist group” was considered the TPLF, which Addis Ababa has been fighting in northern Ethiopia since November, Reuters reported. The TPLF is a former member of the coalition that has ruled Ethiopia for over 30 years. In May, Ethiopia designated the group as a terrorist organization.

EMA officials said on Thursday they revoked the license following complaints that Addis Standard was pushing “the terrorist group agency” forward, including “legitimizing a terrorist group as a” defense force. ” . I accused Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government of taking an increasingly harsh line against national media covering the conflict.

Friday’s warning to foreign outlets appeared to intensify TPLF’s coverage restrictions.

“Bearing in mind that Tigray is one of the units of the Ethiopian federation which cannot have strength with this nomenclature [such as ‘Defense Force’] and as the country’s parliament has called the TPLF a terrorist organization, the [EMA hereby] informs that the use of such terminology violates Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, national interest and security, ”the statement said on Friday.

Cautioning all foreign media against “the use of such characterization”, the statement said that “the further use of the same terminology by any foreign media will constitute a serious violation of Ethiopian law, which will lead to strict measures “.

When Prime Minister Ahmed came to power in 2018, it emerged that Ethiopia was going to shed its reputation as a repressive media environment, but conditions for journalists worsened in the face of new political challenges, according to reports from several. defenders of press freedom.

Friday’s new coverage guidelines for the Tigray conflict come two weeks after police in the capital arrested around 20 journalists and staff from independent broadcaster Awlo Media Center and YouTube-based broadcaster Ethio-Forum, all of whom two criticized the government.

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