US echoes concern over “shrinking political space” in Ethiopia

August 8th, 2008 | by addis portal |

August 7, 2008 (ADDIS ABABA) — A senior US official who paid a visit to Ethiopia last week said that despite growing bilateral relations between Addis Ababa and Washington in various areas, Bush Administration remains concerned with what is referred as “narrowing political space” in the horn of Africa’s nation.

“We have been extremely impressed with the progress this nation has made during Meles rule” US assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, David J Kramer said.

“But the US administration is concerned with the political space being closed” He added. Ethiopia last July endorsed a controversial press law which raised fierce protest from journalists, private-own Medias, publishers and international media watch dog groups.

The higher official addressed local reporters that the United States is alarmed by revised media law, legislation on the civil society organizations, the elections and the interaction between government and opposition groups.

“My government sends me to Ethiopia to underscore that the US attaches equal importance to Democracy” Kramer said.

Media people opposition and concerned groups jointly have reacted fiercely to the July 1 endorsed press law.

“The new bill is restrictive and undermines press freedom endangers the freedom of speech in Ethiopia” a joint statement from concerned groups said.

On the contrary the government of Ethiopia views the move as a step in the right direction.

Bereket Simon, special advisor to prime ministerMeles Zenawi, says despite public fears the new law reassures freedom of press in accordance with the country’s constitution.

“As anyone can see, in the past 17 years the government has had an unwavering stance on the need to build a democratic nation” Bereket said.

“Democracy is the express will of the Ethiopian people, and there is no alternative to it .The fact that private electronic media has become operational since 2005 is a proof the space is not shrinking” He added.

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