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EBC censoring opposition parties’ election adverts



Ethiopian Broadcast Corporation (EBC) has refused to air campaign adverts by the opposition parties alleging they are criticizing the government. This has led to the opposition parties being unable to utilize the media space allocated to them by National Election Board of Ethiopia.

One of the campaign advertisements by Ethiopian Federalist Democratic Unity (Medrek) was suspended by EBC on March 5, 2015 because it criticize the system of Government and government institutions. In the same way, the EBC has refused to air campaign advertisements of Blue party. "The message presented to be aired denies the current democratic progress of the country and also does not acknowledge different government institutions. This will lead citizens not to put trust on the government and we are unable to transmit it," said a letter sent to Medrek Coalition by EBC.
EBC, a State run broadcaster and the sole Television station in the country said it airs campaign programs only if they adhere to the editorial policy of the station. "Based on the media law or any convincing reason, the station has the right not to air any election campaign productions," the letter to Medrek Coalition reads.

"This is complete censorship and violation of our constitutional rights," Yonatan Tesfaye, Spokesperson of Blue party told local journalists. "If there is anything wrong we have done against the law of the land during our campaign, they could have taken us to the court. They cannot stop us from communicating with voters through the public media.”
Recently, Ethiopian Broadcast Authority (EBA) said political parties had not utilized the free airtime and space allocated to them in the print media during the past two weeks in which opposition says it is because of the broadcaster’s censorship. According to EBA only the ruling party, Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has used 98 percent of its allotted air time in the radio, 100 percent in television and 86 percent in the print media.

In an election, the opposition parties usually compare and contrast their policies with the ruling party and convince people to vote for them. Hence, criticism of the government, existing laws and institutions are part of their campaign strategy which should not be censored. As a public broadcaster, EBC should not be seen as favouring the ruling party and its party affiliates. As a public media, EBC should play an impartial, fair and objective role in covering all candidates and political parties. Voters’ rights to receive impartial electoral information from the parties should be the concern of the station and not censorship.