The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the conviction of four journalists and three publishing houses in Ethiopia on charges they attempted to “dismantle the constitutional system” after they published articles about the anti-government riots in November 2005 that came after elections in the country six months earlier.
“We are shocked by this case and the fact that two of our colleagues now face life imprisonment or the death penalty simply for their reporting on public demonstrations,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. “We call on the judges to drop all the charges against the journalists and the publishing houses and to release unconditionally these journalists and all the others who are still in jail.”
Ethiopia has one of the worst records on press freedom in the world. It has held about twenty journalists in jail since 2005. On 9 April, eight jailed journalists were acquitted and released by the Federal High Court. At least 13 journalists are still in jail in Ethiopia.
The journalists Andualem Ayele Legesse of newspaper Ethiop, Mesfin Tesfaye Gobena of Abay, Wonakseged Zeleke Tessema of Asqual and Dawit Fasil Woldeselassie of Satenaw, were convicted on Monday along with 34 opposition activists. They refused to recognise the court or defend themselves because of the political nature of their arrests and detentions.
They were accused of attempting to “dismantle the constitutional system by instigating violence and collaboration.
Tesfaye and Ayele could face life imprisonment or the death penalty. Tessema and Woldeselassie face 3 to 10 years in jail for their convictions. The sentences will be handed down on July 8.
The convicted publishing houses are Sisay Publishing and Advertizing, Serkalem Publishing and Fasil Publishing and Advertizing.
For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries