News / Africa

CPJ Calls for Release of Jailed Reporters in Ethiopia

VOA's Peter Heinlein shown in this Aug. 13, 2011 file photo was recently jailed by Ethiopian authorities. (VOA Photo/G. Joselow)VOA's Peter Heinlein shown in this Aug. 13, 2011 file photo was recently jailed by Ethiopian authorities. (VOA Photo/G. Joselow)
VOA's Peter Heinlein shown in this Aug. 13, 2011 file photo was recently jailed by Ethiopian authorities. (VOA Photo/G. Joselow)
VOA's Peter Heinlein shown in this Aug. 13, 2011 file photo was recently jailed by Ethiopian authorities. (VOA Photo/G. Joselow)
Alex Pena
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has discussed what it calls repressive and harsh treatment of the media with high-ranking members of Ethiopia's government.  

Board members from the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Africa Media Initiative met with a senior figure in the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi this week, and called for the release of journalists being held in the country.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says Ethiopia is holding eight journalists in prison, only neighboring Eritrea holds more jailed journalists in Africa.

The two-hour-long meeting in Addis Ababa focused on those journalists and Ethiopia's overall treatment of independent media.  Independent publishers and media members say the country's very broad 2009 anti-terrorism law has had a "chilling" effect on press freedom in the private media sector.

The law allows lengthy prison sentences for reporting that gives encouragement to groups the government labels terrorists.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says authorities are holding three Ethiopian journalists and two Swedish journalists on charges of anti-government plots and terrorism.  All the journalists have denied wrongdoing.

CPJ representative in Nairobi, Tom Rhodes, says the journalists are being held on "trumped-up" terrorism charges.

"None us thought for example that these two Swedish journalists Martin [Shibbye] and Johan [Perrson] would be detained for this long, and yet they have been, which makes us think they may be there for the long haul," said Rhodes.

According to a CPJ press release, Ethiopian officials say the law is not an instrument for censorship or to attack press freedom, but rather is used to help Ethiopians enjoy their constitutional rights.

Under the law, prominent journalists who have been critical of the government and human rights in Ethiopia face extreme jail sentences.

"Eskinder Nega, who is quite an active voice in Ethiopia, and he is facing a life sentence, and that is not only a great shame for Eskinder, but for the Ethiopian people," added Rhodes.  "He sort of represents the voice struggling to push for democracy and to have these sorts of selfless voices silenced is really a tragedy."

Last month, VOA News Correspondent Peter Heinlein was arrested and held overnight in Addis Ababa on charges of "illegal reporting."

The Committee to Protect Journalists said the government expressed support for it and the African Media Initiative to host seminars and workshops in hopes of strengthening the country's independent media.

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Comment Sorting
by: Al from: U.S.
June 15, 2012 3:26 PM
Agent Adv Trek, you called my response "spit[ing] venom at others with different views"....we call it FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!!

First, I'm amused that you even recognize the term "human rights and free speech" exist!! Second, you didn't get the essence of freedom of speech - that's the reason you called it spit[ing] venom at others with different views" and labelled it as "terrorism". Because, you only understand the definition as your political party defined it - which is as TERRORISM!!! Third, again - I'm amazed that you can even spell the word "freedom" - since it's was 21 year ago since you've ever spelled it (I bet you're more familiar with words - like oppression, killing, torture, genocide, etc.)

But, if you stopped to think, I want to remind you that this is ALL the reason why the Ethiopian people died fought for and won over 21 years ago ...

Speaking of Facts, you (Agent Adv Trek) are one of the few (0.78%) Ethiopians who have internet access (for the purpose of spreading your political party propaganda). We are the 99.22% Ethiopians, HRW, CPJ, Amnesty International, U.S. State Dept Human Rights Report - who says you're repressive and terrorist regime. THAT'S THE FACT!! what "fact" do you have on your side that you can proof with independent party??!!

by: Adv Trek from: Terra firma
June 14, 2012 6:01 AM
Always amusing how those who claim to champion human rights and free speech are the very people who spit venom at others with different views.

You are all entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. Shalom!

by: Al from: U.S
June 13, 2012 2:55 PM
Unless this whole thing is a mockery on Ethiopian people, there's one, and ONLY one, way to stop all this tragedy. And , CPJ knows this perfectly's to STOP THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FROM SUSTAINING THE LIFE BLOOD OF THE ETHIOPIAN REGIME by cutting off the aid money.

CPJ can't stop the Ethiopian regime from the continuation of the current policy (repression, torture, human rights violation, etc). But, they can stop and/or expose the current U.S. president and policy-makers from writing a blank check to Ethiopian governement - in the name of aid.

@Adv Trek, how much are you getting paid to sale your country and conscience? ... Eskinder Nega is "...not employed by any professional news media" Really?! what professional news media exist in Ethiopia since the rule of EHS or modern Ethiopian history?!?! .... Mengistu overthrew EHS and controlled ETV and EthRadio, Meles overthrew Mengistu and controlled ETV and EthRadio ... @Adv Trek, I think you're the most ignorant agent Meles ever hired!!!

by: Dechisa
June 12, 2012 8:54 PM
Q.How is it possible One ignorant prime minister stays in office for 20 years?
A.Because there is no voting or if there is the prime minister stole people's voice.Then to hide the truth, he kills,jails,tortures journalists who are the voice of the voiceless.

by: EU, AU, NATO, UN,... from: Sweden
June 12, 2012 5:16 PM
Those whose interests are to lead by Weapons are Terrorists.
Those who are afraid of journalists are hiding very sensitive information that they don't want the World to know.
Those who stayed more than Eight Years in Office, as a Prime Minister or as a President are very dangerous and they must vacate their place immediately, before they caused enormous damages.

Journalists are the voices of the people. They deserve RESPECT.

by: Adv Trek from: EU & AU
June 12, 2012 2:31 PM
The facts, which will hypocritically be deleted:

The two Swedish reporters, admittedly, were caught with armed Somali gunmen they paid to cross into Ethiopian border illegally, which resulted in a gun battle with many deaths.

VOA correspondent Peter Heinlein was temporarily detained after attempting to illegally use a borrowed diplomatic vehicle to bypass a roadblock.

Eskinder Nega is in jail, again, for continually posting inflammatory articles peppered with ethnic undertones, in the hopes of mobilizing public unrest (he is a profit based web blogger, not employed by any professional news media).

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