New York, November 28, 2005— Ethiopian authorities have arrested another two journalists bringing the number detained since political unrest erupted four weeks ago to at least 12. Sources told the Committee to Protect Journalists that Serkalem Fassil, publisher of the Amharic-language weeklies Menilik, Asqual and Satanaw, and her husband Iskinder Nega who is also a journalist, were being held at an undisclosed location. Security forces raided the offices shared by the three publications in Addis Ababa on November 22, they said.
Last week, police also raided the offices of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists’ Association (EFJA), in the capital, seizing computers and documents, sources told CPJ.
“The ongoing crackdown on the private press in Ethiopia is an outrage,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ Executive Director. “The government must stop its attempt to shutter the entire local press, and release all jailed journalists immediately.”
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. Authorities have since prevented most private newspapers from publishing, jailed and harassed local journalists, and threatened to charge detainees, including journalists, with treason, which is a capital offense. Much of the private press is in hiding. Local sources told CPJ that authorities have stepped up their search for journalists still on a government wanted list.
Security forces have repeatedly detained family members of journalists in hiding. On November 21, they arrested Aboneshe Abera, sister of Sisay Agena, publisher of the private, Amharic-language weekly Ethiop and a member of the EFJA’s executive committee. Abera was held for three days, interrogated about her brother’s whereabouts, and tortured, according to an interview she later gave to the Voice of America’s Amharic-language radio program. Agena’s wife, Helen Seyum, was arrested in early November and later released without charge.
The wanted list includes the 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, many of whom have already been arrested. It also included the president of the EFJA, Kifle Mulat. State media have disseminated photographs of many of these journalists, and have called on the public to tell police their whereabouts.