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Awramba Times is latest Ethiopian paper to vanish

Awramba Times featured parliamentary affairs, health issues, women's issues, satire, and folklore. (CPJ)

A couple of weeks ago, newspaper editor Dawit Kebede, an International Press Freedom award winner, fled Ethiopia. Sadly, Dawit's Awramba Times is the latest in a long list of Amharic-language private publications to vanish from the market following the incarceration or flight into exile of their editors.

Dawit was imprisoned in 2005 on trumped-up charges of genocide and treason after Ethiopia's disputed 2005 general election. At the time, he was the publisher of Hadar, an Amharic weekly, which was banned after his arrest. Twenty-one months in prison didn't break his spirit. Rather, after his release in August 2007, he launched a more mature paper, Awramba Times, with a promising team of writers and commentators. Truth be told, Dawit became more popular with Awramba Times than with Hadar.

Awramba Times was a breeding ground of young Ethiopian columnists. Apart from the usual news and sports reporters, the weekly had correspondents specializing in parliamentary affairs, health issues, women's issues, satire, and folklore. There were also featured guest columnists such as university professors and opposition party members.

Awramba Times's bold coverage drew an orchestrated smear campaign, waged by ruling party papers and their affiliates. Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA), which issues press licenses, joined the foray by expressing displeasure with the paper when it presented its third-quarter report to the parliament in May. EBA accused Awramba Times of trying to incite an Arab Spring-style rebellion in the country. Others were even more blunt in reminding Dawit of the terms of his release from prison. But Dawit didn't seem to be threatened. "Getting outside or preferring exile and living under such repressive situations are the same form," he told CNN earlier this year.

While Dawit had a team of columnists and contributors, he was the face of Awramba Times. The paper has not seen daylight since his departure. For long time, a typical Amharic language private newspaper was tabloid size, as little as eight pages (but more recently as many as 24), with no advertisements. Companies, fearing backlash from the government, were reluctant to place ads in private newspapers, no matter their circulation. With the meager resources that publishers had, it was impossible to hire correspondents and columnists. That led most private newspapers to be a one-man or one-woman show. The incarceration or flight into exile of the editor usually led the title to disappear from the market. For instance, in 1993, Ethiopis, one of the first newspapers to emerge after the fall of the Marxist regime, ceased to exist following the detention of its publisher (the indefatigable Eskinder Nega, who at the moment is languishing in prison on terrorism charges).

More recently, exactly two years ago, the popular Amharic weekly Addis Neger took the same path. When the editors fled the country, the paper folded. Fortunately, they still had the energy to continue the publication onlineAwramba Times can and may do the same thing.

December 9, 2011 5:27 PM ET | | Comments (6)

Comments

Hopefully Awramba Times will continue online. It is important not only for the Diaspora and people living in Ethiopia, but for the rest of the world to have access to information that is not state propaganda.

I say let's just give all Cuz we can't we so let's giveup.. ...just live in Ethiopia. .......we can't win the government .......me I give up.. ......I stop read alll every news paper. ... and stop going against the government. .....I know I can't win.. ......

i am happy for u. Zs is not z last zs is z first so we expect more and more exellent result. I love uuuu very much. Ur admire dani

The so called editors keep fleeing with out a just cause.The problem is that they have delusion of grandeur,the government has better things to do than to go around arresting journalists who claim to be "legit".They have nothing to fear if they were reporting the truth but since they were making up half the stories n exhadurating the rest..

Here in Ethiopia We shout.Freedom............

Ethiopia have much problem. One of the worst problem is Press freedom.The government doesn't allow the existence of reliable and proffesional media. The worst thing that we have to face is the inferiority and supperiority complex among Journalists,Media owners and the so called "sacrified Journalists. Awramba times was not the only newspaper in Ethiopia. There were Addis Neger,Embilta,Googgle,Harambe and others also.Ethiopian government did its homework on all of the above newspaper. Why we should cry only for those 'elit'medias.By the way did everybody know that some people in Awramba and the rest of Ethiopian newspapers work for the security agents. Why Wubshet Taye arested and Dawit Kebede Allowed to flee?Why Riot Alemu Detained and Temesgen Allowed to write up to now ? But there are a lot of Journalists who suffer in Ethiopia. Do not politisize everything.If you politicise everything Ethiopian people know everything.We have records on the mission and goals of the so called flee Journalists specially The latest one. Woyane exports some media owners with a lot of money. If it is necessary we can show the identities of .....Ethiopia is for all of us . Do not discriminate us.


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