Ethiopian PM wants VOA news service jammed

Fri Mar 19, 2010 8:24am GMT

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - U.S.-funded broadcaster Voice of America's (VOA) local Amharic language service in Ethiopia will be blocked because it is destabilising the country, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said.

The Horn of Africa country holds national elections in May and international press freedom advocacy groups say the government is cracking down on the media ahead of the poll.

The government denies that.

"We have been convinced for many years, that in many respects, the VOA Amharic Service has copied the worst practices of radio stations such as Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda in engaging in destabilising propaganda," Meles said late Thursday.

Radio Mille Collines was a Rwandan radio station blamed by many for broadcasting racist propaganda that helped spark the 1994 genocide.

Analysts say Ethiopia is the key U.S. ally in the Horn of Africa.

VOA says its broadcasts into Ethiopia in the dominant Amharic language have been jammed for three weeks. It also transmits in the Ethiopian languages, Afan Oromo and Tigrinya. Those services have been unaffected.

The broadcaster was set up during World War Two to counter anti-U.S. propaganda and broadcasts in 45 languages.   Continued...

<p>Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at his office in Addis Ababa, April 13, 2009. REUTERS/Irada Humbatova</p>
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