The extremely volatile political situation in this electoral year that saw a spectacular boost for the opposition, struck a heavy blow to the privately-owned press in Addis Ababa. The state media continue to display the same servility towards the government. While some private Amharic-language weeklies tried to provide serious coverage of fast-moving events, others gave themselves over to partisan journalism or propaganda. The occasion was too tempting for Meles Zenawi’s government. Arrests, suspensions and threats were handed out at the least trouble.
After the riots in November, a major crackdown in the ranks of the opposition also pulled in around a score of newspaper owners and their editors. Facing “treason” charges along with the leaders of the coalition that contested the results of the 15 May legislative elections, they face the death penalty. Some have managed to flee abroad but others have not. The “moderate” private press still manages to appear, despite major printing and distribution problems and the extreme touchiness of an unstable government, which believes itself confronted by a revolutionary opposition, supported by an unbridled and irresponsible media.