NOVEMBER 2-29, 2005
Posted: December 2, 2005

Dawit Kebede
, Hadar
Feleke Tibebu
, HadarZekarias Tesfaye, Netsanet
Dereje Habtewolde, Netsanet
Fassil Yenealem, Addis Zena
Wosonseged Gebrekidan, Addis Zena
Andualem Ayle, EthiopNardos Meaza, Satanaw
Mesfin Tesfaye, Abay
Wenakseged Zeleke, Asqual
Serkalem Fassil, Menilik, Asqual and Satanaw
Iskinder Nega, freelance
Sisay Agena, Ethiop and the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association

In a massive crackdown on the private press following antigovernment protests, authorities arrested at least 13 editors and publishers in the capital, Addis Ababa. Police prevented most private newspapers from publishing; raided newspaper offices, confiscating computers, documents and other materials; and forced much of the remaining press into hiding. The journalists were jailed along with dozens of opposition and civil society leaders. On November 9, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi threatened to charge detainees with treason, which is punishable by death in Ethiopia.

The crackdown began amid clashes between security forces and opposition supporters who accused Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of rigging polls in May that returned him to power. More than 40 people were killed in a week of violence, which began on November 1.

Starting on November 5, the government released a list of people it planned to prosecute for attempting to “violently undermine the constitutional order in the country.” The list identified 17 publishers and editors of eight private, Amharic-language weekly newspapers, in addition to opposition leaders, the heads of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association, and local representatives of the international charity Action Aid. It also included the president of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists’ Association (EFJA), Kifle Mulat. State media disseminated photographs of many of these journalists, and called on the public to tell police their whereabouts.

Security and intelligence agents arrested nine of the targeted journalists, many of whom were in hiding. Four more turned themselves in to police after their names were listed.

The detained journalists were not immediately charged. Several appeared in court, along with dozens of detained opposition leaders, trade unionists, and others arrested in the crackdown. They were denied bail, and their detention was extended while police investigated their supposed activities, according to local and international news reports.