Eight journalists jailed in Ethiopia, 31 others facing charges

Wednesday, January 12, 2000

His Excellency Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Addis Ababa , Ethiopia
Fax: +251 1514 300/+251 1552 020

Your Excellency,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists For Free Expression to express my concern regarding the continued imprisonment of eight journalists and the pending charges against 31 other journalists in your country. CJFE is an independent organization that works worldwide to promote free expression in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The imprisoned journalists, some of whom have been in jail for over two years, as well as the 31 journalists released on bail, have been charged with "threatening state security" or "defamation." We consider that these are vague charges which in our view are clearly designed to suppress free expression in Ethiopia. In these acts, the government of Ethiopia has violated international standards and laws protecting press freedom. We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that there are now at least 26 independent journalists living in exile due to the repressive activities carried out against the media by your government.

According to our records, the following journalists are currently imprisoned in Ethiopia: Garuma Bekele, Tamrat Gemeda, Solomon Nemera, Tesfaye Deressa, Tilahun Bekele, Zemedkun Moges, Abera Weggi and Bizunesh Debebe

In addition, the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association (EFJA) reports that 12 private newspapers were recently closed by government orders. A further five papers were forced out of print due to the exorbitant rise in printing costs and restrictions on the distribution of newspapers in Addis Ababa.

The ongoing and blatant suppression of the rights of journalists has led Ethiopia to be considered one of the worst countries in the world for journalists to work. We ask that all imprisoned journalists be released and the charges be dropped against the 31 journalists out on bail. Furthermore, we ask that the government lift the restrictions on private newspapers. CJFE will be closely monitoring the situation in your country with the hope that the Independent press in Ethiopia be allowed to work freely in the future.

Sincerely,

Sharmini Peries
CJFE Executive Director

cc. Embassy of Ethiopia, #210-151 Slater Street, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1P 5H3 Fax:(613) 235-4638

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