Posts filed under ‘journalists’
Addis Ababa – An Ethiopian court on Thursday dismissed the appeal of blogger Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage who were jailed last year for terror-related offences.
“The sentencing is still correct so there is no reduction,” said Supreme Court judge Dagne Melaku, confirming Eskinder’s jail term of 18 years and Andualem’s life sentence.
One of the charges – serving as a leader of a terrorist organisation – was dropped, but had no effect on sentencing.
After the ruling, Eskinder made an emotional appeal to the court which was crowded with family, friends and diplomats.
“The truth will set us free,” he said. “We want the Ethiopian public to know that the truth will reveal itself, it’s only a matter of time.”
Both men are accused of links to the outlawed opposition group Ginbot 7.
“The walls of justice will be demolished,” Andualem told AFP.
Four other men also jailed for terror-related charges had their appeal quashed.
One other defendant, however, Kinfe Michael, had his sentence reduced from 25 years to 16 years.
Rights groups have called Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism legislation vague and accuse the government of using the law to stifle peaceful dissent.
“I am very sad, I am very angry, I cannot talk rationally,” Eskinder’s wife Serkalem Fasil told AFP after the decision.
Defence lawyer Abebe Guta said that justice had not been served, and that if his clients agreed, they would appeal to the court of cassation, Ethiopia’s highest court.
The US was “deeply disappointed” that Ethiopia’s federal supreme court upheld the men’s “conviction and harsh sentencing,” acting deputy State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said.
“Today’s decision further reinforces our serious concern about Ethiopia’s politicised prosecution of those critical of the government and ruling party, including under the anti-terrorism proclamation.”
He did not say if the court’s decision would impact a planned trip to Ethiopia by US Secretary of State John Kerry at the end of May.
Ethiopia has one of the most restricted media in the world and the highest number of journalists living in exile, according to US-based press watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Last year Eskinder was awarded the prestigious PEN America’s “Freedom to Write” annual prize.
Justice is supposed to be blind. Judges aren’t supposed to be when it comes to justice. When one thinks of court, one thinks of justice. The famous picture of the lady with the blindfold covering one eye – but that blind fold is starting to look more like an eye patch on a pirate, as many Ethiopians and foreigners as well are being robbed of their day in court. There are good judges out there, but sadly there are quite a few bad ones like Judge Dagne Melaku.
His conduct, among others, is the subject of a forthcoming Sonustar film titled “Justice and Truth.” Thanks to this dirty judge, I got to see firsthand, the sweeping corruption present in the Ethiopian judicial system that in my opinion is the most corrupt in the world.
Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the initial conviction of Eskinder in July 2012.
(New York) – Four Ethiopian journalists have received the prestigious Hellman/Hammett award for 2012 in recognition of their efforts to promote free expression in Ethiopia, one of the world’s most restricted media environments.
Eskinder Nega Fenta, an independent journalist and blogger; Reeyot Alemu Gobebo of the disbanded weekly newspaper Feteh; Woubshet Taye Abebe of the now-closed weekly newspaper Awramba Times; and Mesfin Negash of Addis Neger Online were among a diverse group of 41 writers and journalists from 19 countries to receive the award in 2012. Eskinder, Reeyot, and Woubshet are imprisoned in Ethiopia; Mesfin fled in 2009. All four journalists were convicted in 2012 under Ethiopia’s draconian anti-terrorism law.
“The four jailed and exiled journalists exemplify the courage and dire situation of independent journalism in Ethiopia today,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Their ordeals illustrate the price of speaking freely in a country where free speech is no longer tolerated.”
The Hellman/Hammett grants, administered by Human Rights Watch, are awarded annually to writers and journalists around the world who have been targets of political persecution and human rights abuses. The prize is named after two American writers who were harassed during the 1950s anti-communism investigations. Lillian Hellman suffered professionally and had trouble finding work while Dashiell Hammett spent time in prison. A distinguished selection committee awards the grants to honor and support journalists whose work, activities, and lives are suppressed by repressive government action.
The journalistic work and liberty of the four Ethiopian award-winners has been suppressed by the Ethiopian government in its efforts to restrict free speech and peaceful dissent, clamp down on independent media, and limit access to and use of the internet. They represent a much larger group of journalists in Ethiopia forced to self-censor, face prosecution, or flee the country, Human Rights Watch said.
Eleven Ethiopian and foreign journalists have been charged and sentenced under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law in 2012. Critical blogs and internet pages are regularly blocked. The Ethiopian parliament passed a new telecommunications law in 2012, further controlling internet usage, just weeks after the biggest state printer, Birhanena Selam,issued a new contract for its publishers stipulating that it could censor the content of any publication it deems to violate the law. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the third-largest number of journalists forced to flee their countries since 1992 has been from Ethiopia, after Somalia and Iran.
Like many other journalists in Ethiopia, the four award-winners have suffered greatly, both personally and professionally, in following their profession and exercising their right to free speech, Human Rights Watch said.
On July 13, after nine months in detention, Eskinder Nega, a veteran Ethiopian journalist and the foremost critic from the media of the ruling Ethiopian government, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, as well as participation in a terrorist organization and treason. His case is under appeal. He has been jailed numerous times. Eskinder and his wife, the fellow journalist and newspaper publisher Serkalem Fasil,were arrested, detained for more than one year, and charged with treason following the contested 2005 elections. They were acquitted of all charges in April 2007. Since his release, Eskinder has faced ongoing harassment, surveillance, and intimidation. The authorities denied him a publishing license. In February 2011 he was once again briefly detained. Despite the ongoing harassment, he refused to leave Ethiopia and continued to write and speak out until he was again imprisoned.
Woubshet Tayewas the deputy editor of the Awramba Times prior to his arrest on June 19, 2011. He was convicted, along with Reeyot Alemu, on three counts of terrorism in January 2012. Woubshet alleged in court that he had been tortured during his pretrial detention, but the complaint was never investigated by the court. His arrest was not the first threat he faced as a result of his work. In 2010, prior to the general elections, an official from the government’s media licensing office accused him of “intentionally inciting and misguiding the public.” Woubshet was also briefly detained following the 2005 elections.
Reeyot Alemu was an English teacher and a columnist with one of the last remaining independent papers, Feteh. Reeyot was arrested on June 21, 2011, and convicted on January 19, 2012, on three counts of terrorism. In August, an appeals court reduced her sentence from 14 to 5 years, maintaining one of the terrorism charges against her.
Mesfin Negash works for Addis Neger Onlinewebsite, which he established along with other colleagues after fleeing the country in 2009. Mesfin was convicted in absentia in the same trial as Eskinderunder the anti-terrorism law’s article on support for terrorism, which contains a vague prohibition on “moral support.”Mesfin was one of the editors of the now-defunct popular analytical Addis Neger newspaper, but was forced to close the paper and go into exile in November 2009, with most of the paper’s senior staff, after the authorities threatened him.
Source: Human Rights Watch
He was arrested in 2011 and sentenced in July this year to 18 years in prison under the country’s broad anti-terrorism proclamation. An appeal hearing is scheduled for tomorrow (19 December).
He had written online articles and also spoken publicly about the possibility of an Arab spring-like movement taking place in Ethiopia. After his trial, the government initiated proceedings to seize his assets, including the home where his wife and young son live.
The letter from the MEPs, who are drawn from across the political spectrum, begins by registering “our grave concern” at Nega’s detention.
It notes that the Ethiopian government has an obligation to uphold the right to free expression, and it tells the newly-elected prime minister that he has “the unique opportunity to lead Ethiopia forward on human rights and bring the country fully within the community of nations.”
It closes by urging Desalegn to take all measures within his power “to facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Nega.”
Among the signatories are three British MEPs – Charles Tannock, Conservative (London); Fiona Hall, Lib-Dem (north east England) and David Martin, Labour (Scotland).
Source: Freedom Now
With six journalists in prison, Ethiopia was the eighth-worst jailer in the world. The authorities broadened the scope of the country’s anti-terror law in 2009, criminalising the coverage of any group the government deems to be terrorist, a list that includes opposition political parties.
Among those jailed is Eskinder Nega, an award-winning blogger whose critical commentary on the government’s extensive use of anti-terror laws led to his own conviction on terrorism charges.
“Basically, they are criminalising journalism,” said Martin Schibbye, a Swedish freelance journalist who was jailed along with a colleague, Johan Persson, for more than 14 months in Ethiopia.
“Meaningful Reforms, Reconciliation and the Restoration of Justice”
SMNE Urges New Prime Minister to Take Bold Steps That Will Lead the Country to a New Ethiopia
September 26, 2012
His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn,
Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia
Office of the Prime Minister
P.O. BOX – 1031
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Dear Prime Minister Hailemariam,
We are writing this letter to you, first of all to congratulate you in your appointment as the new prime minister of Ethiopia—only the third Ethiopian leader to assume this position within the last nearly forty years and the first of the three to assume it through a smooth transition—only because the former prime minister died; yet, this is an unprecedented development in Ethiopia’s recent history and we urge you to take hold of your God-given opportunity to help bring truth, honesty, justice, equality and reconciliation and healing that are so needed by for the survival of our severely wounded and divided nation. It is a significant moment to seize if you are to make a historical and meaningful contribution to a genuinely more inclusive Ethiopia where the humanity of each and every Ethiopian is valued more than their ethnicity, the religion they practice, the region they come from or their political party membership.
You are now the leader of Ethiopia; meaning you are the leader not only of the EPRDF or the TPLF or the leader of those who agree with you, but you are also the leader of all Ethiopians, including those who disagree with your party and have been labeled by them as enemies or extremists. Based on the presumption that you will assume your position of responsibility to all the people of Ethiopia—something which hopefully will be proven through concrete action within a very short period of time—we are writing to you, as the new head of the country, to urge you to boldly implement meaningful change from the status quo—moving Ethiopia from a deeply entrenched system that excludes the majority of Ethiopians to one that will free all within our society to realize their God-given gifts.
Mr. Prime Minister,
For your information, the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), of which I am the executive director, is a social justice group, established specifically to break the pattern of Ethiopian destruction that has led ethnic-liberation fronts like the TPLF from grievance, to resistance, to revenge, to overthrowing the Derg, to taking control of the country, to making the country landlocked through splitting it in two, to implementing a system of ethnic-apartheid-domination, to presenting a false picture of a unified Ethiopia through a flawed system of tribes (nations and nationalities) rather than as the Ethiopian people in order for a tiny elite from one ethnic group to cover up a system of ethnic, crony, party, and regional favoritism, to the present stage which is the exploitation of the oppressed and the rest of the people by a few in the TPLF who run the entire country under the pseudonym of the EPRDF.
We in the SMNE strongly disavow any right of any oppressed group to use their past oppression as an excuse to tyrannize or subjugate others; yet, this is exactly what the TPLF has done, in company with the EPRDF. It is epitomized in the recent case of a young person who applied to Addis Ababa University but was rejected because the “quota” for Amharas had been met rather than accepting students based on giftedness, academic credentials and drive. One’s ethnicity should never give you preferred status or be the basis of rejection. This is wrong and immoral.
This was the reason the SMNE was created; not as a political party but as a movement to empower and unify all diverse Ethiopians around these principles in order to build a New Ethiopia where we value the humanity of everyone, not only those like ourselves. We stand for a country where the “system” is structured and well-protected by checks and balances to protect the rights of all for until then “no one will be free until all are free.”
For a “New Ethiopia” to emerge, it means the old Ethiopia must be reformed. You are in a position to drive those reforms forward. Without such reforms, we know many will reject being part of an Ethiopia where they have been oppressed, marginalized, discriminated against, mistreated and/or seen as “impediments to be removed” rather than being accepted as active and contributing partners and beneficiaries in the life of Ethiopian society. This is something we all know is true. Such an Ethiopia is an old Ethiopia, a dying Ethiopia and an Ethiopia that must be discarded if we are to become a New Ethiopia that is good for everyone.
Mr. Prime Minister,
Who would have ever thought that a young man from the Boloso Sore district of the Wolayita Zone in southern Ethiopia, who walked to school some kilometers away with his younger brother, whose dream was to become a doctor, would be the new prime minister of Ethiopia and the leader of more than ninety million people? This may only be about God’s plan to use you, as someone from one of our rich and proud ethnic groups in the South and from a humble beginning, to help bring the family of Ethiopians together to plant a garden for the future of all of us. This garden of beautiful, multi-colored and multi-shaped blooms symbolizes the over 80 different, but all precious, ethnicities of Ethiopia.
The fertile soil of this garden must start with clean and repentant hearts, with our minds open to the truth and by souls filled with pure intentions. Transformational change must be based on love rather than hatred; dialogue rather than violence; reconciliation rather than vengeance; restored justice rather than oppression. This is the only way we can pass on a blessing rather than a curse to the next generation of Ethiopians. We now call on you, Mr. Prime Minister, to move Ethiopia in this new direction. This was the reason the SMNE created—to bring respectful dialogue as we honestly confront our problems so that we might carve out solutions. This is not only about the people but it is about doing what is right in the eyes of our Almighty God who sometimes calls some of us, like yourself, to do very difficult things, but promises to be faithful to those who trust Him and walk in His ways. By what you decide to do, you will show who you will please. These are moral issues with clear directives that lead to freedom of souls, people and nations.
We in the SMNE also posed such moral choices to Meles in two open letters, on two occasions, Open Letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and read in English.. Or read in Amharic.. but he chose to close his ears and ignored us like he ignores the majority of Ethiopians. Instead, he continued to advance his own plans of pleasing those he considered to be his own. We were not surprised, but look where it has led us as a people and now he is gone. Today, you can make a difference, but only if you recognize God’s call in this unique opportunity. Are you willing to take whatever steps God has given to you to do your part in bringing light and life back to Ethiopia?
Mr. Prime Minister,
Our people have suffered so much. If you go from one corner of our beautiful country to each of the others to listen to the people—starting from the south to the north and from the east to the west—you will hear the same stories of their pain, grief, suffering and hard lives. These heartbreaking stories do not come only because of the difficulties of life we all face, but much of their hardship, poverty, lack of opportunity and abuse has come as the result of government policies and harmful actions. Even their chronic poverty and lack of food security can be related to the lack of freedom, the lack of property rights, the failure of the rule of law, the rampant corruption and regime repression.
A nation is like a body. When one part of the body is inflicted with pain, it affects the rest of the body. This one body we call Ethiopia, which is shared by all of us—binding us together—has suffered so much in the hands of the people who have been in charge. These leaders who have led our country all these years are the ones who have failed in their responsibilities to nurture, protect and care for all the people of Ethiopia who are loved by God and precious to Him. It is not an easy responsibility you are being asked to assume, but nevertheless, this responsibility for leadership is now in your hands. If you choose to do what is right in God’s eyes, God will help you, but if you choose to continue to oppress the people and to unfairly exploit them and their resources, you will be on your own.
Mr. Prime Minister,
We know that many Ethiopians are assuming that the TPLF is in total control of you and these people are watching every action you take to prove it. They assume the TPLF is simply pretending that a Southerner is leading a country, when in truth; it is those on the TPLF Central Committee who are doing so. This is the general speculation of the people, but it may not be true.
We know you know much of what is wrong in Ethiopia and might want to change it but will have limits set on you by some, but you may find many, even within the TPLF, who recognize the opportunity to jump from a sinking ship of the TPLF and they may help you more than most expect. We know you cannot do it alone. We also know your party cannot do it alone. The only way is to do it together with the rest of the people of Ethiopia and through the power of God as He works in the hearts and minds of the people to accomplish purposes greater than we can now see.
God may have placed you in this position for such a time as this, but if you do not rise to the purpose, God will find another way. Up until now, the TPLF has not been with the people, but you must reach out to them; especially to your enemies or the people with whom you may disagree with and take concrete action even if it is not popular.
Mr. Prime Minister,
Ethiopia needs deep reforms, not simply cosmetic reforms that skim the surface. All political prisoners must be released. Political space must be restored. You must meet with the political oppositions. Repeal laws that block civil society and freedom of expression and information. Stop the land grabs and the human rights abuses by the Ethiopian military and security forces. They are on the Ethiopian payroll. Stop religious repression and government interference in religious affairs. Call for National Reconciliation and tell the people within the TPLF/EPRDF that they are needed parts of this beautiful body—the country of Ethiopia. They will not be harmed and will have a deserved place in a New Ethiopia for they are “us.” Those who committed crimes will face justice but not on the street. This beautiful country of all of us will not survive by pretending. Ignoring the problems without taking an active role in bringing meaningful change will bring consequences none of us want. Take the necessary bold moves that must be done for the wellbeing, safety and security of our people.
We all live once and have opportunities that will pass us by if not taken. This may be the moment for good that God planned in advance for you. Stand up for the harassed people of Ethiopia. Our country needs transformation and you cannot do it alone. In light of this, reach out to people and be on their side. You are appointed to be a leader of all the people. May God give you the words, the strength, the wisdom, the openings and the support you need to change the direction of Ethiopia from doom to dawn; giving your all to provide a structure to bring reforms, reconciliation and justice so that a dying nation may be revived; so that the favoritism of an unjust ethnic-apartheid system be ended, the shackles of injustice unlocked and a people and nation be inspired to lift up their hands to their Creator God.
Mr. Prime Minister,
As for us, in the SMNE, we are always ready to do whatever we can because we are part of this body of Ethiopia and humanity and are committed to the betterment of all our people. We will not compromise in what we believe meaning we cannot settle for pretense without change, for small goals when we need deep reforms or for benefits for only a few for no one will be free until all are free.
We must care about all our Ethiopian sisters and brothers so that Ethiopia is a better Ethiopia rather than a beggar Ethiopia; an Ethiopia where our children can live in whatever part of the country they want; where they can live and flourish rather than risking their lives as they flee beyond our borders for freedom and opportunity; an Ethiopia where Ethiopians dispersed throughout the world can feel safe to return home to help rebuild this beloved country of ours—a country of freedom and opportunity for all.
We believe this is doable and have hope in our people from every ethnic group, region, religious group, and political group from all over the country that they will rise to the challenge by doing their share. As long as there is strong leadership that puts the interests of humanity ahead of the self-interests of a few; there is no reason that will prevent our Ethiopia from overcoming the negative images for which we are known throughout the world as a starving and dying people.
In conclusion, if you choose to take these strong steps forward, we understand that it may cost you great sacrifice, but you will be choosing the side of righteousness. The people will know it and stand by you! The past is the past and we must move ahead. Take that step now! May God help us all!
Executive Director of the SMNE
910-17th St. NW, Suite 419
Washington, DC 20006 USA
Phone 202 725-1616
Source AllAfrica-Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (Saskatoon, SK)
Despite the fact that Hailemariam tried to portray himself as a God-fearing Christian, it turns out that this man of God has no qualms about the injustice and atrocities being committed against defenseless citizens by the brutal regime he took over as Prime Minister. Hailemariam gave no hint of reform and political concessions including the release of political prisoners or opening up the repressive political system that crushes peaceful dissent in violation its own constitution.
He defended the anti-terrorism law and the unjust incarceration of journalists and dissidents. According to Hailemariam, the regime is punishing only those who wear two hats and operate legally as journalists and dissidents and illegally as operatives of terrorist and violent organizations.
His convoluted, repetitive and at times unintelligent answer to a simple question why the government resorts to repression and blocking the free flow of information, Hailemariam did his best to use his dead boss’s [that he calls the “Great Leader”] words and catch phrases such as “crossing the red line and wearing two hats”.
In response to how he views the dominance of the TPLF that ruled the country in exclusion of the others, he made his best to please his TPLF bosses by denying the obvious and saying that EPRDF is composed of four “parties” that have equal share of power. According to Hailemariam, his election as Prime Minister is a “living witness” of the “internal democracy and equity” within the EPRDF.
“For those who say that EPRDF is biased to certain ethnic groups, is a false and unwarranted speculation… Internal party democracy is the basis of our strength,” he claimed in an interview punctuated with numerous factual [and grammatical] errors.
Asked why websites and other media outlets are being blocked, Hailemariam said that even in the United States Osama Bin Laden’s blo is not allowed. “You cannot open a blog of Osama Bin Laden in the United States. So it is the same,” he said. —- Following are excerpts from the VOA interview where Hailemariam tried to answer a couple of fundamental questions confronting him:
Peter Heinlein: One of the first things that Ethiopians notice about the change from Prime Minister Meles to you is that you are not part of a minority group and the armed struggle perceived as having ruled the country to the exclusion of the other larger ethnic groups. Can you say that the Tigrayan influence on Ethiopian politics is in decline? How do you answer to skeptics who say that the TPLF is still in control behind the scene? HMD: Well, first of all, if you want to understand the whole situation you have to understand our party. Our party is a coalition of four major parties in the country… These are the four coalitions [sic] of the EPRDF.
EPRDF was initially been [sic] established by the two parties which has been [sic] in armed struggle in the Northern part of Ethiopia. TPLF was the pioneer of this struggle and so later on joined by the Amhara National Democratic Movement [sic] and then against by the OPDO and finally after the overthrow of Derg the Southern Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Movement has joined EPRDF….
After the renewal process, since the last ten years [sic] the renewal process has brought up a new, I mean, refined strategy and policy in line of the party. So in this regard, all the parties has [sic] gone into a new movement and has [sic] become parties which has [sic] embraced the same line, the same experience, I mean, the same way of working within the internal party system and almost equitable way of engagement. Even if there are natural differences with experience everywhere…
So I think all the four parties has [sic] equal settings in all the EPRDF mechanisms like the council, the party congress, assignments. The witness is I am the product of this process. So it is a living witness. For those who speculate that EPRDF is biased towards certain groups or ethnic groups, it is based on the powerful influence of this or the other group is a false and unwarranted speculation. So we see internally, in our party system the first and foremost thing is a democratic discourse. You know, internal party democracy is the basis of our strength. So those who are thinking from outside, they think without knowing the inside of the party. We have to explain this properly to those who are confused because they don’t understand the party mechanism and how the party operates.
This party is internally a democratic party. All its decisions and engagements are made in a democratic fashion. Therefore, you cannot say that this or the other party is influencing or overriding the other parties because all the all parties are equal number of constituents, I mean, individuals, that constitute the EPRDF and they have all the influence necessary if they want in a democratic process…
Peter Heinlein: Ethiopia has been criticized in some quarters for its tight control over the flow of information. Critical newspapers have been forced to close, journalists have been accused of violating anti-terrorism laws, and websites have been blocked, even VOA has been jammed, foreign broadcasts have been jammed. What would your government do particularly in this high profile cases such as that of the newspaper Fiteh that has been closed and the jailing of very critical blogger-journalist Eskinder Nega?
HMD: I know that these are your friends and you are so much sympathetic about them. The only thing is, Peter, you have to understand that anybody who has two hats should stop to wear two hats and should wear only one hat in a possible way. These two hats are one hat in a legal system, legal operating on the other hand having the other hat, which is illegal and violent working with a violent organization.
People who are arrested in Ethiopia are not arrested or convicted because they are working in a legal manner. Those who are arrested are has a connection with violent organizations. They are not convicted because of their journalistic business. It is allowed, you know have been there, you have been operating there but you couldn’t cross the red line ahhh to have a connection supporting a violent organization, terrorist organization. That is a case and I think it is a national security matter. It is a different thing. It is not journalism; it is not opposition.
Opposition doesn’t operate in illegal and violent manner connecting itself with ahhh, by the way, with terrorist groups. These are individuals not parties. We have never convicted any party because we know that those legally registered can operate legally in the country. But individuals who are registered with these parties but having two registration, one registration legal parties the other registration with illegal and violent terrorist parties.
They will be convicted for not legally hat but for the other hat which is illegal, violent and connection with terrorist organizations. So we have to differentiate between the two. If they stop clearly, unequivocally without any hesitation to work on the legal spectrum it is always the room is there [sic], the place is there.
If they mix the two, then we delineate between the legal one and the illegal, violent, terrorist one and for the action which is the second hat the violent and terrorist connection and support. Then that will be convicted according to the law of the land and will be punishable. I think these differences should be understood for you. In the United States it is not a problem because journalists do not go illegal way.
They go for legal and they have only got one hat. They do not have a mixed hat. So that is the difference between here and in Ethiopia. Unusually the Western countries do not understand the mix because they do not have this problem. They just see that all journalists work in legal manner. They don’t have this problem of illegal and the other hat. So that difference is sometimes confused. As far as we are concerned we focus for [sic] our national security interest.
Our national security interest cannot be compromised somebody having a two hat. We want to tell them properly that they have to have only and only one hat, which is legal and the legal way of doing things between journalism and opposition discourse. But if they opt to have two mixed functions then we are very clear to differentiate the two. People should be questioned for illegal and violent terrorist connection.
Peter Heinlein: What would be your government’s position on may be possibly opening up a little bit on the issue of press freedom. Right now websites are blocked, foreign broadcasts jammed and newspapers are being closed.
HMD: This I think should be very clear that my government has no policy of blocking these issues. It is depending on the websites or whatever that comes in. If there is any connection with these kind of organisations it is obvious that is done in every country. You cannot open a blog of Osama Bin Laden in the United States. So it is the same.
The writer, Abebe Gellaw, is an award-winning journalist based in the United States. He runs AddisVoice.com
New York, August 28, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today’s decision by the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice to release the editor of a leading independent weekly from jail and drop all criminal charges against him. CPJ also calls for the release of eight other journalists now imprisoned in Ethiopia for their work.
Temesghen Desalegn, editor of Feteh, was released from Kality Prison in Addis Ababa, the capital, at around 3 p.m. today, according to Feteh Deputy Editor Hailemeskel Beshewamyelhu. The journalist was jailed on Friday in connection with his articles that appeared in seven editions of Feteh and criticized the policies of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, according to local journalists.
Charges against Mastewal Publishing and Advertising PLC, the company that publishes Feteh, were also dropped, according to news reports. The company had been charged with inciting the public to violence by publishing Feteh, according to a charge sheet reviewed by CPJ. Temesghen faced criminal charges including defaming the state and inciting people to overthrow the government, the sheet said.
Desalegn Teressa, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, told Bloomberg News, “After further investigation, the prosecutors have decided to drop the charges.” But the government did not give an explanation as to why the charges against Temesghen and Mastewal Publishing had been dropped.
Feteh has not been published since July 20, when the government ordered Barhanena Selam, the state-run printing company, not to print the paper. The ministry blockedthe distribution of a Feteh edition with a front-page story about the conflicting reports surrounding the illness of Meles, according to news reports. It was not immediately clear whether Fetehwould be able to resume publishing.
“We’re relieved Temesghen Desalegn has been freed and will not face criminal prosecution for his journalism,” CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said. “We call on Ethiopian authorities to demonstrate a commitment to freedom of expression by releasing the eight other journalists currently imprisoned for their work and by ending the government’s practice of prosecuting journalists who voice dissenting views.”
Among the eight journalists in prison is independent blogger Eskinder Nega, who has been sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges of participating in a terrorist organization and inciting anti-government protests, according to CPJ research.
The United States is deeply concerned about the prosecution primarily of journalists and political activists under the anti-terrorism law. A court in Ethiopia has convicted a prominent journalist and seven other citizens there, along with 16 who were tried in absentia, of violations of the country’s anti-terrorism law. It was the third case in six months in which journalists were tried under that statute. The United States is deeply concerned about the prosecution primarily of journalists and political activists under the anti-terrorism law. The practice raises serious questions and concerns about the intent of the law and about the sanctity of Ethiopians’ constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of expression.
Journalist and online blogger Eskinder Nega was arrested last September and accused of trying to incite violence with a series of articles that he wrote and posted online. He was also videotaped at a town hall meeting discussing the “Arab Spring” protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries and whether such demonstrations were possible in Ethiopia.Prosecutors said Nega’s activities and those of the other defendants violated the anti-terrorism law because they could encourage others to attempt terrorist acts – charges that all of the defendants denied.
The government has detained Eskinder seven times in all for his writings, part of a disturbing pattern. Including the verdicts last week, 14 of the 17 people convicted under the anti-terrorism law — not counting those convicted in absentia — are either journalists or opposition political figures.
Media freedom is under fire in other ways too. The Ethiopian government is blocking access to a growing number of websites – including recently the online international news sites of The Washington Post and The Economist – which restricts the free flow and exchange of information over the internet.
Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are fundamental elements of a democratic society. When they are restricted, all human rights suffer. That is why the United States has joined its international partners in calling for the end to actions anywhere that have a chilling effect on the media and on the right to freedom of expression.
By Yusuf Omar
About 300 Ethiopians descended on the streets of Sandton on Wednesday, almost bringing business to a standstill. They gathered at noon on the corner of Alice Lane and 5th Street, outside the Sandton Convention Centre, which is hosting this year’s Global African Diaspora Summit.
“Freedom!” they cried. “Allahu Akbar (Arabic for “Praise be to God”),” they yelled. “Viva South Africa, viva!” they cheered.
Most of the participants were political asylum-seekers from Ethiopia now living in Joburg. Their banners read “Meles Zenawi, most notorious, evil, brutal east African dictator Terrorist alive!”.
Zenawi, Ethiopian president for the past 21 years, arrived in Joburg on Wednesday to attend the three-day summit.
Mulugeta Felkea, chairman of the human rights organisation Better Ethiopian, left his home country seven years ago after family members were killed by the regime’s security forces.
“We can’t protest like this in Ethiopia. The soldiers would just shoot us,” he said.
“We want the South African government to influence the international community to take action against Zenawi. He must stop the harassment, release political prisoners and have real elections,” said Felkea.
He said there were officially more than 50 000 Ethiopians in SA, but reckoned there were many more under the radar.
Fana Dereje, general secretary of the Ethiopian Community Organisation, said: “We would return to Ethiopia tomorrow if peace was restored.”
“Right now we are second-class citizens in our own country. The people are hungry, but Zenawi gives us bullets.
The Ethiopian community thanks South Africa for hosting us during these hard times,” he said.
The strongest voice on the loudhailer, leading the men at the front of the march, was that of a woman – actress, journalist and activist Gelila Mekonnen.
She was due to leave on Thursday for Amsterdam, where she works at the Ethiopian Satellite Television headquarters.
“The Ethiopian government calls our independent television station a terrorist channel, but we are simply struggling for democracy,” said Mekonnen.
On Sunday night, more than 1 000 Ethiopian migrants met at the Standard Bank Arena in Joburg to raise funds for the tv station, which they hope to launch in SA this year.