Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ethopia vs Media

Ethiopia: Journalists and Politician Sentenced on Terrorism Charges
 To link to this article, copy this persistent link:http://www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l205402964_text
·         Author: Constance Johnson
·         Topic: Freedom of speech  More on this topic
·         Jurisdiction: Ethiopia

For my Journal Article, I chose a recent International Posting from Ethiopia.  In this article, the author Constance Johnson addressed the issue of free speech in the Nation of Ethiopia as it pertains to journalistic works.   In particular, the major focus revolved around the recent sentencing of several Journalists for charges of incitement of terrorism through their craft.  The sentences ranged from 14 years to Life.  Besides the obvious issue of free speech, other issues were brought up such as the vagueness of Ethiopian Law and the long term implications of the practice of using recent terrorist laws and policies as a tool to restrict and silence legitimate opposition and criticism from the media. 
The issues that were brought up are legitimate issues that need to be addressed on an International Scale so that legitimate law abiding Professionals in the Media are allowed to perform their duties without fear of threat or retaliation.  However, digging deeper in a context of National Sovereignty   and true liberty, it is my position that Ethiopia is justified in its actions of imprisoning what it perceives as a present and imminent threat to its National Security.  Governments have a responsibility.  In most governments, they derive their power and authority (depending on the type of government) from the citizens it represents.  While someone may argue that this is not always the case, I believe that recent events as well as past historical precedence support my position.  One only needs to cite the recent overthrow of the Libyan Government or the continual unrest in Syria as supporting illustrations of my case in point. 
Continuing along the lines of Libya and Syria, these two (2) Nations and their recent National struggles are perfect examples as to why Ethiopia is justified in its actions in view of the Press as a real and imminent threat.  The Arab Spring is perhaps the first widespread uprising or revolution that can accredit modern media as the vehicle of its inception.  If Modern Media did not exist, it is doubtful that regime changes in the various Arab Nations would have occurred in the time and manner in which it did.  This connection between Media and public unrest resulting in the collapse of existing legitimate Governmental entities is cause for alarm. 
It is a known fact that unconventional soft means of attacking an adversary exist.  Media in some respects could be referred to as a propaganda machine with an agenda of regime change or other unscrupulous motives.  Here in the United States, our government employs billions of dollars and personnel to control and limit certain elements both internally and externally from influencing segments of our population.  We view these controls as necessary to ensure public order and decency.  However, our restrictions on the content and delivery of information while different is intended to serve the same deterrent purpose against a legitimate or perceived threat by way of the Media.  Freedom of Speech has its limitations depending on the popular view of the respective Nation.  Incitement for Violence, for example, is prohibited and not protected under the First (1st) Amendment, especially if harm results from this irresponsible activity.  If God has granted certain unalienable rights to all mankind, irrespective, then it is reasonable to concede that these rights should be protected from internal and external threat.  Governments are established to ensure peace and order and to guard against the devastations of anarchy.   Therefore, it is my position that given the recent developments and historically proven influence and power of the Media, Ethiopia is justified in giving lengthy sentences to Journalists as a preventive deterrent against perceived, legiamate threats.


bethd said...

I strongly disagree with the courts in this case. Unfortunately in most countries freedom of speech is not what we think of here in the U.S... Anyone who speaks out against the wrong doings of the government is automatically considered a terrorist. Even when one is voicing legitimate concerns. According to Human Rights Watch and AI, "critics of government such as journalists and political opponents could be charged for encouraging terrorism." This is very vague, what constitutes encouraging in this context? I feel that it could easily be used to convict anyone that the government may view as a threat, not necessarily as a terrorist but one that they feel may be a threat against the government interests. There were no concrete charges showing terrorist activities or links. Does journalism that exposes injustice in a current governmental regime, or journalism that supports other political groups constitute terrorism? Does that really constitute freedom of speech or a make for a true democratic government?

Catherine S said...

While this is an interesting article and topic, I'm not seeing the link to religion and law. I do believe that Americans take for granted that they (we?) have freedom of speech and when situations in other countries like Ethiopia occur, there is outrage. There was recently a man in Indonesia who stated on Facebook that God does not exist (article found here: http://digitaljournal.com/article/318276). In America it is freedom of speech, in Indonesia it is blasphemy. Are the situations in Ethiopia and Indonesia unlawful? Are the actions taken by the powers-at-be wrong? It does not sound like it based on the laws of those countries.