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Arrests of journalists show Ethiopia's sterner side

From the arrest of more than 100 Ethiopian opposition activists, journalists, and columnists, to the arrest of two Swedish journalists, Ethiopia's government is showing its intolerance of dissent.

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The arrests of two Swedish journalists – captured by security forces in early July after a firefight with ethnic Somali rebels – and the detention of a long stream of local journalists with critical views of the Ethiopian government is showing once again the ruthless streak of America’s biggest friend in the Horn of Africa.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi – president of Ethiopia from 1991 to 1995, and premier of Ethiopia ever since – is praised for his economic vision in steering the country toward a path of economic growth and foreign investment, as well as his cooperation with the US’s counterterrorism efforts in Africa. But Mr. Meles’ decisiveness and vision is matched by an intolerance of dissent, critics say.

Over the past year, more than 100 opposition activists, local journalists and others have been detained under a catch-all anti-terror law that can mean up to 20-year jail terms for those who merely publish a statement that prosecutors believe could indirectly encourage terrorism.

Former president of the republic Negasso Gidada, who left the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in 2001 to join the opposition, says that Meles and his followers still hold a belief agreed a decade ago that they are the only ones capable of leading the historically impoverished nation to prosperity.

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