An Open Statement to our Viewers: TPLF Charges Against OMN and Executive Director Jawar Mohammed Will Not Deter Our Independent and Exposing Journalism
March 16, 2017 | OMN Board of Directors
MINNEAPOLIS – Despite the false criminal charges brought against Oromia Media Network (OMN) and its Executive Director Jawar Mohammed by Ethiopian prosecutors, OMN is not deterred from continuing to broadcast independent, nonpartisan journalism on Oromia, the largest and most populous state in Ethiopia. OMN denies any and all charges brought against it and Mr. Mohammed by the Ethiopian prosecutors.
Our viewers should rest assured that OMN will not be intimidated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) clear attempt to suppress freedom of the press in a foreign country. OMN will continue its unrelenting effort to broadcast well researched and exposing journalism. OMN is one of the only truly independent news outlets broadcasting into Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian prosecutors’ accusations against OMN or Mr. Mohammed are untrue. These charges, like many others brought against outspoken opponents of the ruling party’s regime, are purely politically motivated. Ethiopian authorities’ blatant attempt to threaten OMN, intimidate our service providers, frighten our viewers, and restrict movement of OMN staff and management will not succeed. These charges are a poorly veiled attempt to retaliate against OMN for exposing the regime’s mass killings of Oromos in Oromia and its illegal land grab of Oromo farming land surrounding the capital Addis Ababa.
This is not the first time TPLF has targeted OMN, Mr. Mohammed or the Oromo people. Countless times since its inception on March 1, 2014, OMN’s broadcasting signal has been purposefully intercepted. The sources of jamming were consistently traced back to Ethiopia. The current baseless accusations are a mere continuation of the TPLF’s efforts to silence the only independent voice of our people.
In fact, TPLF has gone as far as eliminating all independent media in Ethiopia by jailing, killing or expelling journalists and opposition leaders. In late 2015, the authorities arrested Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Oromia’s largest registered opposition political party. Mr. Gerba and other Oromo intellectuals were targeted because of their influence over the population and their outspokenness. Security forces in Ethiopia also killed at least 140 Oromo and Ethiopian protesters and injured many more, during the people’s protest of the government’s illegal land grab of Oromo farmland outside the capital. Massive protests raged across the country in 2015 and 2016. There are countless reports of government crackdown on opposition voices and media throughout this period, which culminated in the government declaring a state of emergency and restricting internet access. During this time, the TPLF banned anyone in the country from viewing OMN broadcasts. Even the government’s own officials admitted the vicious actions of security forces. In 2016, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn and the speaker of the House Abadula Gemeda publicly stated that the protesters had legitimate causes and blamed government officials for their incompetency, misgovernment and corruption. Dessalegn and Gemeda further stated that government officials did not properly consult with the protest leaders to understand the people’s concerns.
On February 26, 2017, OMN learnt that Ethiopian prosecutors brought multiple criminal charges against OMN, Jawar Mohammed, prominent opposition leaders Dr. Merera Gudina and Dr. Berhanu Nega, and Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT). OMN condemns all charges. Criminal charges against OMN include violations of articles 32/1/a, 38, and 34/1 of Ethiopia’s Penal Code, which allege that OMN attempted to violently overthrow the government, and a violation of article 5/1/b of Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/01 alleging that OMN fueled recent wide-spread protests in Ethiopia by serving as a communication tool for Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ginbot 7, which are labeled as terrorist organizations by the ruling party.
Mr. Mohammed is charged alongside Dr. Merera and Dr. Nega for breaching Penal Code articles 32/1/a & b, 27/1, and 238/1 & 2. Despite their ideological differences, the three men are accused of conspiring to overthrow the government by instigating the grassroots protests that shook the nation in 2014, 2015 and 2016. A guilty verdict for the charges against Mr. Mohammed holds a sentence of life imprisonment or death.
The criminal charges do not contain specific facts linking OMN or Mr. Mohammed to the criminal actions alleged. The evidence of guilt is barely comprehensible. Tellingly, the first two pages of the criminal charges are one long incoherent sentence with no punctuation.
Oromos throughout Oromia rely on OMN for nonpartisan, independent news about events in their homeland because a reliable independent media source is unavailable in the country. OMN condemns any action taken against our viewers in retaliation for watching our broadcasts in Ethiopia or elsewhere.
OMN seeks to offer thought-provoking, contextual, and nuanced coverage of critical public interest issues thereby bringing much needed attention to under-reported stories in the region. Our goal is to create a strong and sustainable multilingual newsroom that will serve as a reliable source of information about the Oromo people, the Ethiopian state, and the greater Horn of Africa region.
We hold ourselves to the highest journalistic standards but unabashedly and proudly offer a uniquely Oromo perspective. OMN is legally incorporated as a non-profit organization under the laws of Minnesota and operates stations out of Minneapolis and around the globe. As an American entity, OMN is protected by the laws of the United States under its Constitution and is granted the full rights to the freedom of the press. The First Amendment of the U.S. constitution provides the core guarantee of press freedom and freedom of speech. U.S. Courts have also routinely given the press broad protection against defamation and libel suits that involve commentary on public figures. OMN is not deterred by the false accusations against it and its employees by a foreign government.
Despite the TPLF’s desperate attempts to silence OMN, we have persevered and found ways to reconnect with our viewership time and again. This time will be no different. We ask that our viewers rally behind OMN as providing independent and critical journalism on key issues that resonate with the Oromo people. OMN will seek out all remedies available to it in the United States and explore all avenues of resolution. We will continue our mission against all odds.
OMN Board of Directors
Dr. Ahmed Gelchu – OMN Board Chairman
Obbo T. Megersa Kitaba, OMN Board Secretary
Dr. Asfaw Beyene – OMN Board Member
Dr. Nuru Said – OMN Board Member
Obbo Abdul Wedai – OMN Board Member
Obbo Shukri Kasim – OMN Board Member
Dr. Bekele Gebremariam – OMN Board Member
Dr. Demissew Ejara – OMN Board Member
Dr. Mohammed Hassen – OMN Board Member
Dr. Sufian Mohammed – OMN Board Member
Obbo Issa Ulo – OMN Board Member
Obbo Mohammed Nur – OMN Board Member