The U.S.-based watchdog group the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says Ethiopian authorities have jailed two more journalists on criminal charges. The two are Getachew Simie -- former Editor-in-Chief of the defunct Amharic weekly Agere, and Leykun Engeda -- former publisher of another Amharic weekly Dagim Wonchif. Their convictions last week pertain to articles published up to seven years ago. Thirteen journalists have been detained since renewed anti-government protests in early November. The crackdown began amid clashes between security forces and opposition supporters, who accused Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of rigging elections in May that returned him to power. At the conclusion of the polls, the European Union’s observer mission concluded that they failed to meet international standards.
The CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator, Julia Crawford, told Voice of America reporter Ashenafi Abedje her group is “extremely concerned” about the situation in Ethiopia, where she says there are now at least 15 journalists behind bars. She says the Ethiopian government now has the same number of journalists in jail as Eritrea, which she says is one of the world’s most notorious jailers of journalists.
Many of the detained journalists in Ethiopia have been accused of treason and of publishing articles that incite public unrest. But Ms. Crawford says most of the journalists have yet to be officially charged with anything – despite their continued detention since November 1st. The CPJ official says she believes the Ethiopian government is sensitive to outside pressure and that it’s “heavily reliant” on donor aid. So she says donor countries, international press freedom lovers, human rights groups and the media must continue exerting pressure. She says such groups should impress upon the Ethiopian government that the continued jailing of journalists is unacceptable – especially in a place that she says “claims” to be democratic.