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Arrests of journalists show Ethiopia's sterner side

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"They decided then it is only the EPRDF which can lead the country to middle-income level in 20 to 30 years' time," he says. "All other organizations should to be brought on board or eliminated."

Little room for dissent

Meles' proven track record in overseeing economic growth and stability lead some to praise his rule. Human rights groups and journalist organizations complain that the government targets those who simply disagree with the ruling party.

Senior government spokesman Shimeles Kemal rejects rights groups’ claims that the pattern of arrests reveals an intolerance of dissent. He says that those arrested for terrorism – including the two Swedish journalists – have left behind evidence of links with banned militant groups. Ethiopia’s concerns over terrorist threats were bolstered recently by a recent UN report detailing an Eritrea-backed plot by rebels aiming to cause carnage in downtown Addis Ababa during an African Union summit in January this year.

Connections of some sort between opposition politicians and outlawed organizations such as Ginbot 7 are possible. Ginbot 7’s exiled leader, Berhanu Nega – sentenced to death in-absentia for his role in a tumultuous 2005 election – was a former colleague in the defunct Coalition for Unity and Democracy.

But while exploiting such connections to crush the opposition is a predictable maneuver, the prosecution of the Swedish journalists Johann Persson and Martin Schibbye is a departure for the government.

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