There were at least 16 journalists in jail at the end of the year. All of them were newly imprisoned during the course of 1997, sustaining Ethiopia's status as one of the world's worst offenders of press freedom. Most of the mass media are owned, funded, and controlled by the state.
In January, the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi announced its first state-owned Internet service provider with a capacity of 5,000 clients whose rates favored large organizations, effectively shutting out most individual users and smaller nongovernmental organizations.
As the cost of printing continues to rise, Zenawi's government has attempted to bring a poorly funded but boisterous independent press in line by the use of arbitrary restrictions on the print media-detention, imprisonment, and the imposition of prohibitive fines and bail on journalists and editors is commonplace. Journalists and editors work under threat of arrest and prosecution by either a poorly trained police force or an inexperienced, partisan judiciary working in a backlogged court system. The authorities regularly use the Press Law of 1992 to detain journalists for lengthy periods and sometimes try them for allegedly publishing false information or incitement against the government.
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