Imprisoned: February 18, 2015
Released: January 10, 2018
Outlet: Radio Bilal
Darsema Sori Ethiopia
1,057 days in prison
Darsema Sori, senior editor at the faith-based Radio Bilal, was arrested on February 18, 2015, and released on January 10, 2018, after serving his full prison term and spending 1,057 days in jail on charges of inciting extremist ideology and planning to overthrow the government through his station’s coverage of Muslim protests.
Darsema had been arrested alongside his colleague, Khalid Mohammed, after police called them in for questioning, local journalists said. They were charged on August 15, 2015, along with 18 other defendants, under the 2009 anti-terrorism law, according to news reports citing the charge sheet.
“The accusation was totally bogus. We have done nothing but reporting,” Darsema said in a letter sent from prison and published by the Addis Standard on January 17, 2017, shortly after the journalists were sentenced.
Darsema was sentenced to four years and five months in prison and Khalid was sentenced to five years and six months in prison, according to CPJ research.
Both journalists walked free on January 10, 2018, after a court decided to reduce the sentences to three years for Khalid and three years, seven months for Darsema, their lawyers, Seid Abdela and Mustefa Shifa Suleyman, told CPJ.
The lawyers said that upon the reduction of their sentence, the two journalists were eligible for immediate release in accordance with article 113 of Ethiopia’s criminal code which states that prisoners can walk free early on condition of their good behaviour and after having served at least two thirds of their sentences.
Darsema had also been a columnist for the now-defunct Ye Muslimoch Guday (“Muslim Affairs”) magazine, local journalists told CPJ. The magazine ceased publishing in July 2012 after two of its editors went into hiding, local journalists said.
Darsema extensively covered protests by the Ethiopian Muslim community that began in 2012 to condemn government interference in Islamic affairs, according to CPJ research.
Darsema and Khalid have been imprisoned by authorities before. On August 2, 2013, they were arrested and held without charge for almost five months.