Ethiopian magazine stops printing due to state of emergency

WEB_PHOTO_ETHIOPIA_PROTESTS_07_08_2016

Policemen attempt to control protesters chanting slogans during a demonstration over what they say is unfair distribution of wealth at Meskel Square in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, August 6, 2016.

ADDIS ABABA - The independent monthly Addis Standard magazine said on Tuesday it would stop its print edition because of the "impossible" conditions created by Ethiopia's state of emergency, declared earlier this month following widespread protests.

"The printers keep turning us down," said Tsedale Lemma, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Addis Standard.

"Their lawyers have advised them not to publish anything political because the state of emergency extends punishment not only to writers but also to publishers and distributors" of anything seen as likely to spur a resumption of months of sometimes deadly anti-government protests.

Wary supermarkets, hotels and street vendors have also refused to sell the magazine, she added, until the state of emergency imposed on October 9 is lifted.

"We have tried to convince them that the state of emergency only targets 'inciteful material' but they fear this can be interpreted and abused," Lemma said.

The English-language Addis Standard, in print continuously since February 2011, is one of the few independent voices in an Ethiopian media landscape almost entirely controlled by the authorities.

The cover of the last edition of the magazine featured the #IreechaMassacre hashtag used by anti-government activists on social networks who blame security forces for the deaths of at least 55 people in a stampede on 2 October, an attack that helped trigger the state of emergency declaration a week later.

READ: Use of social media a crime during state of emergency in Ethiopia

While the print edition is indefinitely suspended, the online version will continue and Lemma said she was planning a digital expansion to include podcasts. Nevertheless, it is expected that around half of the 23 full-time staff will lose their jobs.

Even before the state of emergency the Committee to Protect Journalists rated Ethiopia as one of the most repressive countries in the world, with 10 journalists imprisoned last year alone.