The Committee to Protect Journalists yesterday sent a delegation to Washington, DC, to meet with Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United States. The CPJ says it is outraged at the jailing of at least 16 journalists in Ethiopia and the reported filing of criminal charges against them, as well as against five VOA broadcasters here in Washington, DC.
Julia Crawford, CPJ’s African program coordinator, was a member of the delegation to the Ethiopian Embassy. In Washington, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the reasons for the meeting.
“The purpose of the meeting was to reiterate our deep concern at the imprisonment in Ethiopia since the beginning of November of at least 16 journalists and the ongoing brutal crackdown on the independent press there. We have already issued a number of protest letters to (Prime Minister) Meles Zenawi and we have called several times for the release of the journalists. We do not believe that the charges against them are legitimate charges. As you know they have now been charged or are being charged many of them with anti-state crimes, serious anti-state crimes. But despite appeals from press freedom organizations, but also from the diplomatic community, the journalists remain in jail. So, we came to Washington to meet with the ambassador and present our concerns to him in person, and also to try to get some clarification, particularly on the status of the jailed journalists,” she says.
As for the meeting itself, Ms. Crawford says, “There was really not very much new that came out of it. I think it was a positive meeting in that dialogue was engaged. And both sides recognized that. But the Ethiopian ambassador basically reiterated his government’s line, which is not surprising, that the journalists are jailed for alleged participation in an attempt to violently overthrow the constitutional government. That is the allegation and they said it will now be up to the courts to decide.”
VOA director David Jackson has said the treason charges that may be filed against VOA broadcasters are “false” and an “obvious attempt to intimidate our broadcasters.”