In a letter addressed today to the President of the United States Barak Obama, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) asked the president to support its demand for the release of all imprisoned journalists and bloggers in Ethiopia ahead of his visit to the country.
President Obama will visit Ethiopia late July to meet with Ethiopian government and African Union leaders. This visit has already forced the Ethiopian government to release six journalists, some jailed since June 2011.
“A dozen journalists still remain in jail, including four bloggers who worked for the independent Ethiopian collective Zone 9,” says IFJ president Jim Boumelha in the letter to the US President. “We urge you to press the Ethiopian president to order their immediate and unconditional release”.
Among the released journalists are Reyot Alemu, a columnist on the now-closed national weekly Fitih; Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, editor of Addis Guday; Edom Kasaye, who used to work for Addis Zemen; Tesfalem Waldyes of Addis Standard – all charged and convicted with incitement to terrorism.
The IFJ points at the highly restrictive media environment in Ethiopia and the frequent attacks against journalists carried in total impunity.
The organisation has been campaigning for many years to stop Ethiopia using its Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, since its introduction in 2009, to silence dissenting voices, prosecute independent journalists and force publications to close.