Nairobi, December 30, 2013--An Ethiopian court convicted a journalist on December 25 on the charge of spreading false rumors and sentenced him to two years and nine months in prison, according to local journalists.
The First Instance Court in Hawassa, capital of the state of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Regions, convicted Asfaw Berhanu, former contributor to the private bilingual paper The Reporter, in connection with a September 4 article he wrote for the publication that claimed three state government officials had been removed from their posts, local journalists said.
The officials had not actually been dismissed from their posts, the sources said. The Reporter issued a front-page retraction in its next edition and dismissed Asfaw, Reporter Managing Director Kaleyesus Bekele said.
Asfaw is being held in Hawassa Prison, local journalists said. He plans to appeal the sentence, the same sources said.
"Asfaw Berhanu should not be jailed for making a mistake, especially after the Reporter apologized and issued a retraction," said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. "Authorities should release Asfaw from prison immediately."
On October 10, three policemen visited The Reporter office in Addis Ababa and arrested Managing Editor Melaku Demissie, taking him for questioning in connection with the September 4 news report, according to local journalists and news reports. The police commissioner ordered his release the same day, Melaku told CPJ.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This alert has been modified to reflect the correct spelling of Kaleyesus Bekele's name.