Wednesday January 17th 2018
After a day of journalistic mishaps and mistranslations in both local and international press, we have some clarity on what exactly Ethiopian leaders said and did not say during Wednesday’s surprise announcement.
In a much-anticipated press conference, the four chairpersons of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) briefed journalists from the state media on what the agreements they reached at nearly three weeks long closed session of the party’s Executive Committee. The meeting, held amid heightened political tensions across the country, turned into a big media speculation storm.
Initial reports suggested that the Prime Minister used Wednesday’s presser to announce the unconditional releases of every single political prisoner in Ethiopia and plans to close the infamous Maekelawi prison. The report caught Ethiopia observers (and no doubt many Ethiopians) off guard.
The international press went with a glowing but as we now know mistranslated sound bites and most of the world went to bed believing repressive Ethiopia has taken an unprecedented step forward in expanding human rights and political freedoms for its citizens. In fact, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce issued a statement lauding Ethiopia for “finally acknowledg[ing] that it holds political prisoners.” The Republican lawmaker called on Ethiopia to “quickly follow through on its commitments to release them and close a prison camp notorious for torture.” The Ethiopian government adamantly denies holding any political prisoners in its jails.
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