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Rise in Newspaper, Magazine Printing Cost Threatens Press Freedom



Based on the Constitution and related laws promulgated to protect press freedom and free speech, various newspapers and magazines have been established over the past two decades. The role they have been playing in providing alternative information to the public is invaluable.

Nonetheless, with their limited financial base, theirs has always been a survival that is fragile. As they are major instruments and tools to ensure these constitutionally guaranteed rights, this implies that the publicís right to be informed is at risk, similar to their obligation to provide it.

With the recent increment in newspaper and magazine printing costs, their survival has been pushed to the edge. The price increment, which printing enterprises have imposed on newspapers and magazines, has become unbearable.

Subsequent to the increase by Brehanena Selam Printing Enterprise on printing costs by up to 45pc, other printing enterprises have followed suit; this has put the entire press industry in the country in a dreadful situation.

For instance, newspapers and magazines published by private publishing houses pay over 30 million Br annually to these printing enterprises. Some have even been customers for over 15 years.

Considering that Brehanena Selam Printing Enterprise takes the lionís share in the number of customers, years of business relationshipas, and total payment disbursed, and aside from the high rate of the recent price increment, publishers have written a letter to its management board. They have also addressed copies to the board of directors of the enterprise and higher officials of the Privatisation and Public Enterprises Supervising Agency (PPESA).

In these letters, publishers raised their grave concerns about the impact the price increment would have on the right of the public to be informed, and appealed that the latest increase be suspended for at least three months, pending a commissioning of studies to determine whether this increase in printing costs is justified. They also called for continued discussions and deliberations to be held with the managers of the enterprise in due time.

Considering escalations in the global prices of commodities, publishers would expect a reasonable increase in the cost of local newspaper printing. However, the consequences the recent price increase has on newspaper and magazine publishers are something we were unable to shoulder.

We believe that the printing enterprise could thrive profitably without necessarily putting newspapers and magazines on the fringe. The solution requires goodwill from all sides.

What worries us is not whether the profit of a given newspaper would decline or the survival of others would be threatened. Rather, the role of the free press in society to provide information, as stated in the Constitution and related laws, is in peril. The right of the public to be informed would wane in the absence of these newspapers and magazines. This would close the door for alternative information and diversity of views on matters of public interest.

Realising that the recent increment in printing costs, which publishers could hardly bear, would cause a national problem and hinder the right of the public to obtain alternative information, we call on the government as well as relevant authorities to give due attention to address the issue and to do their utmost to resolve the problem.

Coordinating Committee of Newspaper and Magazine Publishers

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