Three leading Ethiopian journalists escaped to Kenya after they were released on bail from an Ethiopian jail. Tesfaye Deressa, Garuma Bekele and Solomon Namara all who worked for the amharic newspaper Urji had been in custody since October 1997, when they were arrested. Speaking to the Media for Democracy in Africa coordinator in Nairobi, the trio said they fled their country jumping bail because they believed that they could not receive a fair trial in Ethiopia. They said they had been charged with armed conspiracy and supporting OLF terrorism. The offence carries a penalty ranging from 5 years' imprisonment to death.
Even though the charges did not specify any connection between the three journalists with the OLF activities in 1997 or any other violent incidents, they alleged that they "distributed Urji newspaper periodically and thereby furthered the objectives and struggle of OLF" which is considered a terrorist organisation by the government.
The three have sought assistance from the UNHCR offices in Nairobi.
In the past five years alone, the situation in Ethiopia has forced over twenty prominent Ethiopian journalists into exile. Key among them are: Kefale Mammo - former President of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFPJA), Mr. Mulugeta Lule former editor Tobia, Mr. Anteneh Merid -Tobia, Sintayehu Birro, Abera Worgi among others.
The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) has finally held its elections in which a new group of leaders was elected. During the June 16, 2001 elections, Mr Ezekiel Mutua was elected General Secretary while Mr. Tervil Okoko was elected chairman. The elections, which were presided over by the Nairobi provincial labour officer, also saw Mr Maina Muiruri and Said Wabera elected as Treasurer and Organising Secretary respectively. The outgoing General Secretary Mr. Kihu Irimu did not defend his seat.
According to the new office, KUJ's immediate challenge will be to lobby the support of well wishers and friends to reorganise the union. Of prime importance will be fundraising activities to improve the union's financial standing.
Ugandan journalists meeting at a election reporting seminar on June 18 - 22, 2001 have developed and adopted rules and guidelines to aid reporters when covering elections. The guidelines and rules, which were adopted to coincide with the June 2001 parliamentary elections in Uganda recommend that:
- journalists should take time to acquaint themselves with background information about social dynamics in the community and candidates in the elections;
- study electoral laws and other relevant regulations guiding the process;
- disseminate civic education material and other relevant material to enable the electorate make informed decisions;
- maintain a contact list of the key players in the election;
- avoid sensational reporting, which could trigger conflict;
- avoid becoming part of the campaign story by taking sides in the elections;
- provide equal platform for all views, including those of the marginalized and other special interest groups.
For further information please contact Martin Ocholi, MFD Regional coordinator - East Africa : [email protected] or Tel : +254 2 713910
With the Support of the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights