IPI urges Schwab to speak out on press freedom
IPI today published an open letter to Klaus Schwab, Founder & Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, urging him to speak out on press freedom. The World Economic Forum on Africa is scheduled for May 9 to May 11, 2012 and will be held in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. Journalists are also being held in Ethiopia.
The full text of the letter is below.
To: Klaus Schwab
Founder & Executive Chairman
World Economic Forum
91-93 route de la Capite,
Vienna, 8 May 2012
Dear Klaus Schwab,
We humbly ask that you consider using the World Economic Forum on Africa, which is scheduled to begin in Addis Ababa tomorrow, to speak out on the importance of press freedom.
I am writing today as Executive Director of the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of publishers, editors and leading journalists based in Vienna, Austria, and dedicated to defending press freedom around the world.
Journalists in many countries across the world are in prison as a result of their work. Disappointingly, the very country that is hosting this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa is among that number, and has jailed five journalists (and a host of opposition figures) within the last year.
The reality is that Ethiopia has achieved tremendous economic growth, but at the same time the fundamental right of Ethiopian journalists to speak their minds has been suppressed.
This is demonstrated first by the imposition of terrorism charges against journalists, and the fact that prosecutors reportedly use articles written and even received by the defendants as evidence against them, according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Last week, the editor of a paper that negatively covered the ongoing trial of writer Eskinder Nega and others was reportedly given a fine for publishing a piece by one of the defendants; the author of the story was given an eight month sentence.
Can you imagine if a journalist from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung were jailed for a story she wrote? From the BBC? From The New York Times?
I am not writing because I hope you will speak out for the sake of journalists. I hope you will speak out on press freedom because journalists and the media have a critical role to play in improving the state of the world – which is the goal of the World Economic Forum.
Journalists’ work plays a fundamental role in upholding democratic institutions and ensuring transparency in business and government. Media provide a space for public discourse. In short, the right to press freedom benefits all sectors of society and helps ensure transparency in their interactions with each other.
On Friday, May 11, you’ll be participating in a public discussion on global, regional and industry transformation called “An Insight, an Idea.” On the same day, a verdict is expected in the trial of Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega and several opposition members also accused of terrorism.
Will Eskinder be sentenced to prison because he has spoken out against the Ethiopian government, or will he be acquitted of the politicized charges against him? The result should give everyone at the Forum an insight and an idea into Ethiopia’s true respect for transformation.
Alison Bethel McKenzie
International Press Institute