CPJ condemns jailing of journalist

New York, July 18, 2002—Ahead of a mission scheduled to arrive in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday, July 22, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today protested the sentencing of Tewodros Kassa, former editor-in-chief of the Amharic-language weekly Ethiop, to two years’ imprisonment.

On July 10, Kassa was sentenced for violating Ethiopia’s restrictive Press Proclamation No. 34 of 1992. Kassa joins Lubaba Said, former editor-in-chief of the Amharic-language weekly Tarik, who was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison on April 3 for her work.

According to the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association, at least 37 journalists have criminal charges pending against them. During the last five months, 20 of them have been summoned to court to face those charges.

In today’s letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, CPJ executive director Ann Cooper wrote, “Government authorities have repeatedly demonstrated that they will use restrictive laws to silence unfavorable reporting or criticism. Ethiopian journalists will not be free to report the news independently until the Press Proclamation No. 34 of 1992 is repealed and the Penal Code is modified.”

The CPJ mission plans to meet with both journalists and government officials to discuss this and other press freedom violations in Ethiopia.