Ethiopia's 2005 election: why I fled my country

15 March 2017, 11:57 UTC | Ethiopia
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By an Ethiopian journalist in exile

The May 2005 general election in Ethiopia was not only phenomenal in the spectrum of politics in the country, also it rather aggrandised the power of the media. This brief, strange episode of the Ethiopian media was realised after 14 years of a state transition, during which countless media outlets were able to thrive with thousands of readers in the streets. In fact, it has always been recognised as a landmark in the history of Ethiopian media.

Nevertheless, the post election scenario that brought harrowing experiences of bloodshed, crackdown and state of emergency, critically froze the media. As a result, a significant number of popular newspapers were shut down and a dozen groups of publishers, journalists and columnists were jailed changing the landscape of the media until now. Moreover, many renowned journalists fled the country as some of the publishing agencies swiftly ran out of  business.

"The post election scenario that brought harrowing experiences of bloodshed, crackdown and state of emergency, critically froze the media."

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) have revealed evidence of this irresistible crackdown on the media in Ethiopia for years. Despite this,  the Government of Ethiopia remains defiant, refusing to release those languishing behind bars, or to respect the right to freedom of expression.

And although freedom of speech looks highly intertwined with the job of journalists, bloggers and columnists, it has a lot to do with the rights of every individual.

I fled my country after the failed attempt at a free and fair election of 2005 which had a direct impact on the two other elections held in 2010 and 2015.  This election unintentionally brought about such an opportunity for the first time in a thousand years of history of the country.

In my own experience as a then college student and journalist, I would say an enormous number of Ethiopian refugees fleeing the country claimed refugee status in connection with that matter. And this makes the 2005 election in Ethiopia one of the few major incidents that forced citizens to flee the country and become refugees across the world within a decade.

This was the same for citizens of other African countries that held “free and fair” elections in a pseudo-democracy in order to deceive the international community and their donors that they are on  the move towards democracy.

Thus, this particular influx of journalists, politicians and activists fleeing from Ethiopia will say that this one significant incident is the main reason behind every reason, that they are seeking refuge.

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