AUGUST 8, 2005
Updated: August 17, 2005

Tamrat Serbesa, Satanaw

Andualem Ayle, Ethiop


Ethiopia’s Supreme Court sentenced Serbesa, editor-in-chief of the private Amharic-language weekly Satanaw, to one month in jail on a contempt charge after the editor refused to identify an unnamed source who criticized an earlier court ruling. Ayle, editor-in-chief of the private Amharic-language Ethiop, was fined in a related case.

Serbesa was found guilty of contempt of court in connection with his paper’s coverage of a Supreme Court verdict in a case involving the National Election Board. The court rejected the opposition CUD party’s claim that the election board improperly announced provisional results of the May 15 parliamentary elections before the final count was determined.

On July 7, the Supreme Court ordered Serbesa and Ayle, as well as Ethiop managing editor Tegen, to reveal the sources of anonymous quotes published in their newspapers criticizing the verdict, including one in Satanaw attributed to an unnamed lawyer who deemed the verdict “shameful.”

Ayle was ordered to pay a fine of 2,000 birr (US$220) in the decision.

The charge was brought amid a government crackdown on Ethiopia’s private press following the disputed election. Since deadly clashes between government security forces and opposition supporters erupted in early June, authorities have pressed criminal charges against more than 10 editors from the Amharic-language press in connection with their coverage of the election’s aftermath. Many other journalists report being harassed or otherwise intimidated for their coverage.

Contributing to the repressive atmosphere for the independent press, senior government officials publicly threatened legal action against any journalist who “defame[s] the reputation and dignity of a government official or any individual,” according to CPJ sources and a state radio report translated by BBC Monitoring.