Prominent newspaper distributor imprisoned

New York, June 13, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the arrest and imprisonment of a prominent newspaper distributor in the capital, Addis Ababa. Fikre Gudu, who buys thousands of copies of newspapers to distribute to news vendors, has been in detention since the evening of June 8, when he was arrested at his home by government security forces, local sources told CPJ. There has been no public explanation of his arrest, and it is unclear whether he has been charged.

Gudu is considered a key figure in newspaper sales and is based in the neighborhood of Arat Kilo, where most of the capital’s private newspapers are printed, CPJ sources said. His arrest has not significantly disrupted newspaper sales, but local journalists said it could intimidate other distributors.

The government has cracked down on the media amid post-election unrest. On June 7, the Information Ministry revoked the accreditation of five local journalists working for foreign media. Several incidents of police harassment of journalists have also been reported in recent days. (See CPJ’s June 8 letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi: )

Last week, the capital was wracked by deadly clashes between opposition supporters and government security forces. The rioting was sparked by allegations of fraud in the May 15 parliamentary elections, and delays in announcing the results. Agence France-Presse reported that police detained thousands of opposition supporters over the weekend, while at least 36 people died as a result of the post-election violence, according to official estimates.

“CPJ is concerned that Fikre Gudu’s detention is part of a crackdown on the media in the aftermath of elections,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director. “Ethiopian authorities should not impede the free flow of information, especially during this crucial period.”