Solomon Hailemariam, author and founder of PEN Ethiopia, had to leave his homeland Ethiopia in 2015, after repeated attacks on himself and the organization. He now lives in exile in Canada, and serves as chairman of PENEthiopia. In an open letter to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed he expresses his hopes concerning the development of freedom of the press and of expression in his native country, and points out some of the challenges the coming years will hold.

Dear Dr. Abiy,

I am writing this open letter because I am concerned about the fate of our country. I am writing this open letter because I have a responsibility and duty as a citizen to state to write what I feel is right and appropriate to our country’s future. I am writing this open letter because I choose to participate rather than to gossip as a bystander.

To begin with, I would like to congratulate you again and again on your success in every aspect of your endeavors, most of all, for releasing thousands of political prisoners and journalists and dismissing charges against diaspora-based media outlets and unblocking 264 websites, some of them considered terrorist websites. You are allowing free media to flourish in Ethiopia, showing your confidence and farsightedness. The entire world is impressed with us knowing the sacrifice you and your team have made to make this happen.

Ethiopia ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index. In 2019, because of your direct action, Ethiopia ranked 110th! What is more, for the first time in years, there are no jailed journalists in Ethiopia. It is a clear paradigm shift on the part of the government. We are all proud of your achievements and for the first time in decades, we are now optimistic about the destiny of our country.

Needless to say, leading a country with a huge disadvantaged and uneducated population is a daunting task. But your rare vision and positive energy radiates hope for all people in the country in all walks of life.

One of the major challenges we are facing in Ethiopia right now with regard to freedom of speech is the mixing of journalism and activism. Media house owners and journalists are actively involved in politics and social mobilization.

As a professional media expert, no theory or practice supports such action. Journalism has clear and simple duty: to inform, educate and entertain the public without bias and impartially in an objective, balanced and independent manner. Media houses are expected to provide the public with the information they need to make decisions about their lives, their communities, their county and their government. If journalists make decision and mobilize their community, then they are no longer journalists, I presume.

Thanks to you and your team, any one in Ethiopia can now organize a political party and run for office without fear or intimidation, hence, instead of wearing two caps, it is better to leave journalism and become a politician. This is particularly the case in country like Ethiopia where media personalities influence the innocent and disoriented on an unprecedented scale. The differences between journalism and activism should be defined and clearly stipulated. The freedom of speech earned by the blood and sweat of thousand of young people in the country shouldn’t be tarnished by a handful of powerful individuals who are mixing journalism with activism and who are playing double standards.

Dear Dr. Abiy, your government has a serious responsibility to make sure activism and journalism do not tamper with democracy and put the country back in to chaos. I call up on your government to introduce new law curtailing the mixing of political activism (mobilizing the public) and journalism in the short term and introduce programs of media and information literacy in the long term.

I thank you,
Solomon Hailemariam,
President. PEN Ethiopia,


  1. There are many people that one way or the other assisted the killing machinery of EPRDF to stay in power. Whether be it DERG OR WOYANE both would not kill as many as they did, if they didn’t had help from within the victim’s groups. Many Ethiopians gave up their own brothers and sisters to save their own skins. Negasso Gidada gave up countless Oromos and other ethnicity Ethiopians to save himself. Whoever that are currently talking good about him are same type of people who threw their brothers and sisters to the killing machineries in order to save their own skins. It is those that are fooled by volunteer slaves that are admiring his legacy now. No person with a conscious would glorify Negasso unless they themselves were volunteer slaves as he was a volunteer slave until his last days.

    It is just those volunteer slaves that are fooling others so when their time comes they will be admired too. In Los Angeles , California USA the Ethiopian government Ambassador blessing at the Embassy called an urgent memorial candil light vigil ceremony to be held Tuesday May 7th between 3pm and 4pm . It would have been our suggestion if they didn’t waste the time on this, they should hold such things after working hours if they want to. The embassies deny us to renew our passports and now they hold such ceremonies on working hours paid by tax payers money which totally shows how much of dictatorship government we have. Gedu Andargachew should take appropriate action against the Los Angeles Ethiopian embassy Council for it’s unprofessionalism..Be it in Medrek or not , Negasso was a volunteer slave spy just like Abiy Ahmed is now.It is said there is a plan to declare a national day of mourning for Negasso too.To escape potential.prosecution as it happened to those who cheered when Meles died, now those that cheer for Negasso’s death are said to be doing it in private homes away from the police.


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