UDJ: Birhanena Selam refuses to print Finote Netsanet

The Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ) says it has not received any formal response to its questions about the reason the party’s newspaper has been banned from being printed by the Nation’s major state owned printing press; Birhanena Selam Printing Enterprise (BSPE). The party is vowing pursue, through legal means, the reinstatement of its right to publish the party’s Amharic weekly newspaper; Finote Netsanet, at the printing press. The ban on the newspaper is the second of its kind, next to Fitih this year.
Finote Netsanet has not received any formal explanation as to why the paper was banned since August 25, 2012 though it has written three formal letters tof inquiry o the printer and a number of Government offices including the Prime Minister’s Office. Though unconfirmed by the printing press and Government officials, the party claims that the paper was banned due to the report it has covered on the death of the late Prime Minster Meles Zenawi.
“We have waited until now due to matters related to procedure. We will sue Berhanena Selam Printing Enterprise and make use of all other legal means ensured by the Constitution,” said Negasso Gidada (Dr.), who is the president of the party. The printing enterprise came up with what it called a standard contract last April. Private newspaper and magazine publishers have denounced the new contract which was circulated by printers saying it promoted censorship and went against the spirit of the constitution and press freedom. Back then, publishers submitted their complaint to the late Prime Minister. After receiving the letter from the printers, the publishers held consecutive meetings to adopt a common stand against the contract. 
The contention to the contract arises due to two sub articles embedded in the draft document which gave the printer the right to refuse to print any written script submitted by the publisher if the printer has adequate reason to judge that the script breaches the law and terminate the contract at any time should it have adequate reason to judge that the publisher has a propensity to publish content that entails liability.
Publishers argued that inclusion of the above points in the contract article is in disagreement with Article 29 of the constitution which prohibits censorship in any form. Thus, publishers including Finote Netsanet said that signing the standard contract would be unconstitutional because they would be agreeing to censorship.
“In what appears to be censorship, a service giving institution refused to print our newspaper like an institution granted the right to give or deny a publishing permit. That is illegal,” said UDJ officials in a press conference held last Tuesday.
After censorship was legally abolished two decades ago following the coming to power of the Ethiopian People’s Democratic Revolutionary Front (EPRDF), publishers took full responsibility of what was written in their papers. Publishers have been sued for what have been written in contrary to law.
This is the third time the dissemination of a newspaper was blocked. The massive blocking of distribution took place right after the 2005 election. By then, more than five newspapers including Menelik, Addis Zena and Netsanet were eventually banned from publication.
Finote Netsanet has been in the business of reporting for over a year selling more than 15 thousand copies per week in the fourth quarter of the year. The number of copies it sells swelled following the closure of Fitih newspaper.

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