News / Africa

Ethiopian Journalist Arrested Over Article About Former PM's Wife

Marthe van der Wolf
An Ethiopian journalist has been arrested and interrogated for writing an article about the wife of late prime minister Meles Zenawi. Wednesday's arrest came as a surprise since the article was published seven months ago.
Ethiopian journalist Ferew Abebe, editor-in-chief of the weekly publication Sendek, said he was summoned Wednesday to the Federal Police Crime Investigation Department office. He was interrogated about an article he wrote and published seven months ago and was accused of defaming the former first lady, Azeb Mesfin.
Ferew said he was very surprised about the interrogation and being treated like a criminal. He said the federal police asked him many questions and wanted him to reveal his sources. They then took his fingerprints, personal details and photos before releasing him on $265 bail.

Asked for comment, an official in the Ethiopian prime minister's office, Getachew Redda, said he has no knowledge about journalists being interrogated for writing rumors about the former first lady.

According to the published article, the wife refused to leave the prime minister's palace weeks after the death of her husband, making it impossible for Meles successor Hailemariam Desalegn to move in.

The federal police say someone filed a complaint about the article, but would not say who.
Ferew was summoned Wednesday morning to appear at the police office and he said he was not told why. By the time the interrogation started, he said, he did not get the chance to contact his lawyer. Ferew said he was not intimidated by the government’s actions. He said that he knows he did his work professionally and that this gives him strength to not hold back in the future.
Prosecutors say they are looking into the case and will take Ferew to court if there is enough evidence.
Rights groups say Ethiopia has a poor record when it comes to freedom of speech for local journalists. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says seven Ethiopian journalists currently are in prison.  The appeal of prominent blogger Eskinder Nega was denied earlier this month, meaning he has to serve an 18-year jail sentence.


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Comment Sorting
by: Mimi
May 16, 2013 6:13 PM
His source, as usual, are ethnocentric Diaspora opposition groups, and it's comical they were so worried that Hailemariam, a protégé of late P.M. who they despise, was not in the palace sooner.

by: Alem
May 16, 2013 2:46 PM
The journalist wrote that the widow of the late Prime Minister would not vacate the official residence for the incoming family for two whole months. Wasn't this the fact? The journalist also reported that during the two months the new Prime Minister had to commute in the process creating traffic nightmare as his entourage would take up space. That also was true. So where is the problem? How was this a story? Just another illustration of lawless leaders.
In Response

by: Yodit
May 17, 2013 10:54 AM
Wondu, Ethiopians don't feels sorry for your rich relatives living in mansions at Old Airport neighborhood. If Hailemariam motorcade made them miserable because they stopped twice a day, then Hailemariam policies to stop abuse of housemaids should hopefully give them indigestion.
In Response

by: Tadias
May 16, 2013 9:02 PM
There's a difference between her being allowed to stay, and reporting she "refused to leave." Nobody believes her own husband's political party that was still mourning his death was in a hurry to throw her out.
In Response

by: Wondu
May 16, 2013 7:39 PM
I have relatives who live in the area (old Airport) where the residents were forced to suffer the traffic nightmare created by the new Prime Minister's commuting from his residence to his office - oblivious of the problem. How nice of him to allow the former first lady to stay in the palace. This should give us a hint of his leadership (sub-subservient)

by: Legal Ref from: California, U.S.
May 16, 2013 2:11 PM
I guess lawsuits for criminal defamation are only permitted in the White Western world, but called "human rights violations" in developing nations.

Please refer to U.S. Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan...State laws also permit up to two years to file.

P.M. Hailemariam had publicly stated the family of late Meles Zenawi should remain at official residence until secure accommodations were completed.
In Response

by: Walid
May 18, 2013 1:05 PM
If Alem lives in Ethiopia, then I’m the Queen of England.
In Response

by: Mimi
May 18, 2013 12:21 PM
Alem, aka Hagos, you're the one who keeps accusing everyone of being a consulate member in all your aliases, one trick pony even on this comment board. The tributes to late Meles are copied and posted by everyone because it gives us all pride, and makes ethnic haters like you burn inside out.

You also clearly never read the Global Financial Integrity Report, because the figure is actually $8.5 billon over ten years due to loss of tax revenue and illegal money exchange, quote "...Finding of the report that raised eyebrows among panelists was the revelation that the usual suspects of African dictators and their cronies do not have as much part in the money laundering scheme as members of the private sector."

And as for the government "stealing aid money," the BBC retracted that story with an apology after Sir Bob Geldof threatened defamation lawsuit, which thanks to your bogus accusation brings us full circle to topic of current VOA article!
In Response

by: Alem
May 18, 2013 12:20 AM
Mimi, actually I live in Ethiopia. I was 10 when Derg was overthrown. I write such comments only when I travel outside our country. And yet people like you try to stop me from expressing myself even in America. Your comments are evidence that you and others like yourself are provided with ready-made responses from the consulate to distract from the real issues and to deceive readers. A fellow that goes by the name of "Ras Mitat" last week used an identical set of quotes [in that order] in defense of the late-Meles Zenawi. It could be you are using the two aliases, which only goes to show the desperation within the ruling minority. I am glad to hear you say you and your party love America; the problem is that American taxpayers do NOT love thieves. Obama did indeed say the words you quoted on Meles' death. Were you expecting Obama to say Meles was a tyrant who never would abide by free and fair elections? One issue is that American people do not know the full story that the late-Prime Minister and his wife and their comrades stole aid money. May I suggest that you call Office of Global Financial Integrity in Washington, D.C., and hear for yourself that $16.5 billions were smuggled out of Ethiopia by the rulers in a decade starting in 2001? It could be you are not interested in such facts. Be good.
In Response

by: Mimi
May 17, 2013 9:42 PM
Sorry Alem, you Derg murderers lost the war and fled to Diaspora, and the rest of us are building Ethiopia. We love America, and American government believes in us. Now close your eyes, facts coming:

Barak Obama: “Prime Minister Meles deserves recognition for his lifelong contribution to Ethiopia’s development, particularly his unyielding commitment to Ethiopia’s poor.”

Bill Gates: “Meles Zenawi was a visionary leader who brought real benefits to Ethiopia’s poor.” Gates flew to Ethiopia for funeral!

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics and former World Bank Chief Economist: “Meles Zenawi showed that, with the right policies in place, even a poor African country could experience sustained economic growth."
In Response

by: Alem
May 17, 2013 12:12 PM
The hallmark of those who comment from their consulate hideout is this: they would quote American experience when it suits them and a little later denounce America as imperialist/neo-liberal, etc; they tend to compare mice and lions and facts and fiction. Anbessaw is case in point. He wants us to believe JFK and Meles Zenawi are comparable? JFK was elected, Meles was not [and remained in power for 22 years against the will of the people]. In the US Presidential election results are announced first week of November followed by Inauguration the 3rd week of January.

In Ethiopia elections are determined before voting ever took place. It took nearly six months to determine who was going to replace Meles Zenawi. Deputy PM Hailemariam was finally agreed on because none of Meles' comrades could allow one of their numbers to jump into the slot; and what should not be forgotten is that Obama had to weigh in with a phone call in support of Hailemariam. I know you will come back and deny this despite the glaring facts. Jacqueline Kennedy left the White House earlier than usual in December because VP Johnson was already installed as president following JFK's assassination. Are you now going to argue Meles was assassinated?
In Response

by: Anbessaw
May 17, 2013 10:42 AM
@ Truth, Jan 19 is inauguration day in U.S. after election, not the same scenario but I'm sure you don't care.

Jacqueline Kennedy stayed in White House for a month after assassination of President Kennedy, even though they owned many private mansions. Meles also died suddenly, and his own party and deputy gave the family time to find new residence, since they owned none. If that somehow bitterly upsets you, then seek counseling.
In Response

by: Anbessaw
May 16, 2013 9:10 PM
@Hagos of Eritrea, I guess you know nothing about government, the new leader of any country has the right to move private residence anywhere he wants. Even your President Isayas lives in Massawa for his own safety.
In Response

by: Truth from: U.S.
May 16, 2013 8:04 PM
"criminal defamation"?!?! ... If you really know about the "White Western world" and trying to compare yourself with them, which President stayed in the WH past Jan. 19 - the last day of their presidency?!?! ... which "White Western world" has the most journalist - most of all - AWARD WINNER journalist in prison?!?! ... Let me just say that you're doing what you're doing - and feeling so untouchable - is because, and ONLY BECAUSE, that this "White Western world" - that you despise so much - is on your side (ally). Someday when they realize that they're sleeping with a terrorist like yourself (and your aunt Azeb), your glory days will be OVER!... Finished!!
In Response

by: Wondu
May 16, 2013 7:31 PM
Legal Ref,

You cited the law of defamation in a place where due process is followed. In contrast, Ethiopia is ruled by the law of the mafia.
In Response

by: Hagos
May 16, 2013 2:50 PM
Nice try G from Ethiopian consulate. What a silly idea that was. Moving the late-Prime Minister's wife out of the palace is not for Hailemariam to determine. Your true color showed through - inadvertently I should say.

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