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Nairobi, September 11, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the Ethiopian government to set free six journalists in prison for their work, a day after Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were pardoned and released from Kality Prison in the capital Addis Ababa.
Dear Prime Minister: We are writing to express our serious concerns about legislation that would further restrict press freedom in Ethiopia and about an ongoing pattern of criminal prosecutions, administrative restrictions, and Internet censorship. We are concerned that these measures, which official rhetoric has publicly justified as policies to safeguard the “constitutional order,” actually criminalize independent political coverage and infringe on press freedom as guaranteed by the Ethiopian Constitution. We call on you to use your influence to reverse this trend.
The small vanguard of independent media that emerged from a brutal 2005 crackdown struggled in the face of continuing government harassment. Although authorities issued licenses allowing a handful of independent political newspapers to operate, they continued to use imprisonment, threats, and legal and administrative restrictions to suppress coverage of sensitive issues.
Involved militarily in the conflict engulfing Somalia, engaged in a tense stalemate with arch foe Eritrea, assailed by allegations of human rights abuses in the eastern region of Ogaden, Ethiopia eased media repression slightly and released many journalists from prison. Yet the chilling effect of a brutal 2005 media crackdown that led to 15 arrests…
Dear Prime Minister, We are writing to express our great concern about the government’s denial of publishing licenses to five independent Ethiopian journalists freed last year from prison. We are calling on you to use all your influence to remove such administrative restraints, which contradict the government’s public assurances last year that former prisoners would be allowed to resume their work.
Dear Secretary Rice, In advance of your meeting with Ethiopian officials in Addis Ababa, the Committee to Protect Journalists would like to draw your attention to our concerns regarding press freedom conditions there. You may know that 15 Ethiopian journalists were recently released from prison, but this development belies the country’s sustained record of contempt for independent media, which manifests itself in a variety of legal and administrative restraints. The 15 jailed journalists were sentenced on trumped-up charges such as genocide in connection with the media’s coverage of Ethopia’s 2005 post-election unrest.
Dear Prime Minister, We are writing to express our deep concern about the whereabouts, legal status and health of Eritrean journalists Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi and Saleh Idris Gama of Eritrean state broadcaster Eri-TV. Official statements and videotape indicate that your government has been holding them incommunicado after their arrests by Kenyan authorities late last year during fighting in Somalia.