Suspects held in brutal attack on editor

New York, November 4, 2008–CPJ calls on Ethiopian authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into Friday’s beating of newspaper editor Amare Aregawi.

Aregawi, managing editor of the English- and Amharic-language newspaper Reporter, was released on Monday from a hospital in the capital, Addis Ababa, according to local journalists.

Journalists who visited Aregawi in the hospital told CPJ that he was badly injured when three men attacked him as he was walking near his office around 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Eyewitnesses told CPJ that the men approached Aregawi from behind, striking the editor in the head with a stone and repeatedly hitting him until he fell unconscious. The assailants jumped into a waiting car, driven by another man, but were impeded by a traffic jam, the witnesses said. Two men were apprehended at the scene, a third man was detained on Saturday, and a fourth remains at large.

Police have not publicly disclosed details of the arrests. Ethiopian federal police spokesman Demsash Hailu told CPJ that the Addis Ababa Police Commission was overseeing the investigation.

Reporter staffers, including Aregawi and editor Aseged Teffera, have received anonymous threats in recent weeks in connection with a series of investigative reports alleging that people close to Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Sheikh Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi had mismanaged his investments, local journalists said. 

“We condemn the barbaric beating of Amare Aregawi,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “The Ethiopian police must do everything in their power to ensure the masterminds behind this brutal assault are also charged.”

It was the second time this year that Aregawi, one of Ethiopia’s best-known journalists, has faced reprisals over his paper’s critical coverage of influential business interests in the country. Aregawi was detained for 6 days without charge over a story reporting a labor dispute at a government-run brewery in northern Ethiopia.

In 2007, the Committee to Protect Journalists named Ethiopia the world’s worst backslider on press freedom.