Temesghen Desalegn

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

The Federal High Court in the capital, Addis Ababa, convicted magazine owner Temesghen on October 13, 2014, of incitement, defamation, and false publication in connection with a 2012 defamation case, according to local journalists and news reports. On October 27, 2014, a court sentenced Temesghen to three years’ imprisonment, according to news reports. He is being held at the remote Ziway Prison, about 83 miles southeast of the capital, journalists living in exile, who track his case, told CPJ. The conviction stemmed from a series of opinion pieces published in Temesghen’s former news magazine Feteh (“Justice”) in 2012, according to the charge sheet reviewed by CPJ. The articles discussed the peaceful struggle of Ethiopian youth movements for political change, and two columns criticized alleged government efforts to violently suppress student protests and ethnic minorities, according to the charge sheet.

The court also charged in absentia Mastewal Birhanu, the former publisher of Feteh, with inciting the public to violence by printing the magazine, according to the charge sheet.

Authorities briefly arrested Temesghen on August 23, 2012, in relation to the same articles but dropped the charges and released the journalist five days later, according to news reports. In February 2013, a judge in the Federal High Court re-instated the charges without explanation. State prosecutors had announced in December 2012 that they would re-file unspecified charges against him, Temesghen told CPJ.

The government also ordered printers to block the distribution of Feteh in July 2012 in connection with a series of articles about the former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s health, local journalists said. Authorities blocked three other subsequent publications started by Temesghen, including Addis Times, Le’ilena (“Magnanimity”), and the latest, Fact, according to CPJ research.

The last edition of Fact was published in September 2014, local journalists told CPJ. In August 2014, the Justice Ministry accused Fact and five other independent weekly publications of inciting violence, publishing false news, and undermining public confidence in the government. All of the publications ceased printing.

In March 2015, CPJ learned that Temesghen had been denied essential medical care. Sources close to Temesghen told CPJ that because has denied care for existing stomach and back problems, Temesghen now has difficulty walking. Prison guards have denied Temesghen prison visits from anyone except his mother and brother, local journalists told CPJ.