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.