The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the ruling of Ethiopian Judge Adil Ahmed who said 25 journalists who had been held in custody since December 2005 should be released immediately because prosecutors failed to prove treason and genocide charges against them.
The journalists had been among about 111 people, including teachers and members of the opposition, who had been rounded up following the aftermath of the 2005 general elections, which was brutally suppressed by the Ethiopian security forces, resulting in a number of deaths. All the prisoners were accused of attempted genocide and treason and faced life imprisonment or the death penalty if convicted.
“This is indeed a welcome development,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “It is good that our colleagues were acquitted of all the charges levelled against them. We have always insisted that the charges against the journalists were bogus and their continued detention illegal and a violation of their fundamental human rights.”
According to Reuters, Judge Adil Ahmed in his ruling, said, “The prosecution has not proved the charges levelled against the 25 journalists” and hence called on the prison authorities to release the journalists immediately.
The IFJ is calling on Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to ensure that the court’s decision is followed and that all 25 journalists are released without any further delay. In the same vein, the IFJ also called on the Government of Ethiopia to unconditionally release all other journalists who are held in custody due to their work and to drop charges against journalists who were forced into exile.
The IFJ is very much concerned about the cases of a freelance journalist and two journalists from the public television channel ETV who have been in jail since April 2004.
The IFJ believes that freedom of the press and freedom of speech in general are fundamental elements of democracy. All over the world the press plays a significant role in national development by educating and empowering the general citizenry as well as encouraging social development. There can be no meaningful democracy in Ethiopia, or anywhere else, where media continue to be suppressed.
For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries