ETHIOPIA


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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press


JANUARY 29, 2004
Posted: March 8, 2004

Befekadu Moreda, Tomar
LEGAL ACTION

The Federal Court in the capital, Addis Ababa, charged Moreda, who is editor-in-chief and publisher of the private, Amharic-language weekly Tomar, with "incitement to violence." Moreda was released after paying 3,000 birr (about US$360) in bail.

According to a local source, the charge stems from an opinion piece that ran in Tomar in 2001, about a student protest at Addis Ababa University. It alleged that students at the protest threw stones at police officers who were armed with live ammunition. The opinion piece was not written by anyone on Tomars staff and was submitted under a pen name. A local source told CPJ that Moreda could face several years in jail if convicted.

APRIL 2, 2004
Updated: December 8, 2004

Merid Estifanos, Satanaw
IMPRISONED

Ethiopian authorities jailed Estifanos, former editor-in-chief of the private, Amharic-language weekly Satanaw, after he was unable to pay bail in a criminal defamation case.

According to local sources, Estifanos appeared before a federal court in the capital, Addis Ababa, on April 2, in connection with a defamation charge stemming from a September 2001, opinion piece, titled "The Hidden Agenda of Prime Minister Meles."

The article accused Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of supporting the government of neighboring Eritrea and alleged that Eritrea had defeated Ethiopia during the two-year border war between the two countries from 1998 to 2000. Despite various U.N.-sponsored peace efforts, the two countries have yet to agree on a border, and severe tensions between them persist.

Estifanos did not write the article, but as editor-in-chief of the newspaper, he was held responsible for its content. Following the article's publication, Estifanos was charged with defaming the prime minister, and ordered to pay bail of 1,000 birr (US$120) while awaiting trial. According to local sources, he could face more prison time if convicted.

At the April 2 hearing, the court told Estifanos that since he had missed his previous court hearing, the court had imposed an additional bail of 3,000 birr (US$360). When Estifanos was unable to pay this amount, the court ordered that he be transferred to prison.

Estifanos was released on May 17 after submitting the 3,000 birr.

JULY 15, 2004
Posted: July 22, 2004

Wosonseged Gebrekidan, Ethiop
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Gebrekidan, editor-in-chief of the Amharic-language weekly Ethiop, was summoned to court in the capital, Addis Ababa, and charged with defamation, which is punishable by imprisonment under Ethiopian law.

According to local sources, the charge stemmed from an article published in Ethiop in September 2002, about a bomb blast at the Tigray Hotel in Addis Ababa. The article said that Seko Toure Getachew, the editor of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front party's weekly newspaper, Abiotawi Democracy, had been injured in the explosion. Getachew denied the report, and Ethiop ran a correction about the story. Getachew later sued Gebrekidan for defamation, according to a CPJ source.

Because Gebrekidan was unable to pay the 300 birr (about US$35) bail imposed by the court, he was ordered detained at a local police station. Colleagues at Ethiop paid the bail on July 16, but the editor remained in detention until July 19, local sources said.

JUNE 2004
Posted: August 16, 2004
Updated: September 7, 2004

Tewodros Kassa, Ethiop
LEGAL ACTION, IMPRISONED

Kassa, the former editor-in-chief of the Amharic-language weekly Ethiop, was sentenced to three months in prison on criminal defamation charges. The sentencing took place while Kassa was already in prison, nearing the end of a two-year sentence.

CPJ records showed the new charge dated from November 2000, and stemmed from an Ethiop article headlined "Businessman Killed by Unidentified Force," which alleged that local businessman Duki Feyssa might have been killed by state security forces. A relative of Feyssa brought the charge.

Kassa had been sentenced to two years in prison on July 7, 2002, on two counts of violating Ethiopia's restrictive Press Proclamation No. 34 of 1992. The charges were defamation and "disseminating false information that could incite people to political violence," and stemmed from three articles published in Ethiop in 1997.

Kassa's release from prison was expected in July 2004, since he had served his full two-year sentence. But CPJ sources said that in June 2004, just as Kassa was to be released, he was sentenced to three more months in prison on the new defamation charge.

The journalist was released from prison on September 6, 2004.


JULY 30, 2004
Posted: August 17, 2004

Tigist Behailu, Tinkish
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Behailu, former editor-in-chief of the defunct Amharic weekly Tinkish, appeared before the 2nd Criminal Bench of the Federal High Court for her final hearing in a criminal defamation trial against her. The judges ordered Tigist's imprisonment until the verdict was announced.

The defamation charges were brought against Behailu in 2001 by a private citizen named Mengistu Mihretu, who accused Tinkish of defaming him in an article published that year, according to local sources. The article alleged that Mihretu was involved in a sex scandal, these sources said. Behailu did not write the article, but as editor-in-chief of the paper, she was held responsible for its content.

On August 3, Behailu was sentenced to either six months in prison or a fine of 5,000 birr (about US$564). Behailu could not pay the fine and was transferred to prison. She was released on August 6, after her family pooled enough money to pay the fine.

DECEMBER 2, 2004
Posted: December 16, 2004

Wosonseged Gebrekidan, Ethiop

LEGAL ACTION

Gebrekidan, former editor-in-chief of the private, Amharic-language weekly Ethiop, was summoned by the Federal Court in the capital, Addis Ababa, and charged with inciting the army to rebellion. He was released after paying bail of 300 birr (about US$34).

The charge stemmed from an editorial published in Ethiop in December 2003 about the aftermath of the border war fought by Ethiopia and Eritrea between 1998 and 2000. In 2002 an independent commission awarded the small but symbolic border town of Badme to Eritrea; U.N.-backed peace efforts later faltered over Ethiopia's refusal to implement the commission's ruling. The Ethiop editorial accused the government of not doing enough to keep Badme from being awarded to Eritrea and called on Ethiopian army officers to raise this issue.

In November 2004, the Ethiopian government announced that it was willing, in principal, to accept the commission's ruling.

DECEMBER 2, 2004
Posted: December 16, 2004

Tesfa Tegen, Ethiop
Andualem Ayle, Ethiop
LEGAL ACTION

A court in the capital, Addis Ababa, summoned Tegen, manager of the weekly, Amharic-language Ethiop, and Ayle, the paper's editor-in-chief, and charged them with defaming Ethiopian Justice Minister Harka Haroye.

The charge stemmed from an article published in Ethiop in September about an autobiography published by Haroye. In his autobiography, Haroye denied participating in the "Red Terror" campaign of the 1970s, during which thousands of perceived opponents of former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam's regime disappeared or were tortured or executed extrajudicially. The piece in Ethiop cited an article from another local newspaper alleging that Haroye had in fact participated in campaign.

The two journalists were released after paying bail of 2,000 birr (about US $224).


DECEMBER 23, 2004
Posted: January 18, 2005

Wosonseged Gebrekidan, Ethiop
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Gebrekidan, the former editor-in-chief of the private, Amharic-language weekly Ethiop, was imprisoned on December 23 after being charged with defamation in connection with a March 2001 article in Ethiop about a dispute between two neighbors in the capital, Addis Ababa. The court imposed a 3,000 birr bail (US$335), which Gebrekidan was unable to pay.

The article alleged that the Ethiopian Justice Ministry prematurely dropped charges against businesswoman Eteneshe Abreha, who was accused of having her neighbor's house illegally demolished. Abreha filed a defamation complaint against Gebrekidan, and under Ethiopian law, defamation is punishable by imprisonment.

Gebrekidan was released on December 31 after the staff of Ethiop secured enough money to pay bail.

CPJ has documented at least five other criminal charges pending against Gebrekidan stemming from his work for the Addis Ababa-based Ethiop. Court cases against journalists in Ethiopia can drag on for years, and journalists are regularly jailed for not being able to pay bail or for missing court hearings. Many journalists have multiple charges pending.