News / Africa

Ethiopian Journalists Flee as Others Tried for Terror

Pedestrians walk past the Federal High Court building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 1, 2011.
Pedestrians walk past the Federal High Court building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 1, 2011.

Two newspaper columnists known for sharp criticisms of Ethiopia's government are reported to have fled into exile, just as other journalists being tried on charges of treason and espionage.

Ethiopia's journalist community was abuzz Tuesday with word that "Abe Tokichaw" has become the latest government critic to flee the country. The pen name, which in the Oromo language means "Abe the one and only," is the moniker of writer Abebe Tola, who gained notoriety for political satire that pokes fun at Ethiopia's ruling party and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

His irreverent columns have appeared in two privately owned newspapers, Feteh (Justice) and the Awramba Times, both known for their anti-government editorial line.

Abebe was last seen by colleagues a few days ago at the trial of Awramba Times Deputy Editor Woubshet Taye, and Feteh columnist Reeyot Alemu, both of whom were arrested in July on terrorism-related charges. At the time, a government spokesman said the arrests had nothing to do with their professional activities.

Abebe is reported to have fled in the company of Tesfaye Degu, who writes a column for the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party newspaper.

A topic of discussion

The number of government critics in exile was the topic of discussion Tuesday at the terrorism trial of 24 others, including at least six journalists and a number of opposition political figures.

All but one of the journalists are living abroad and working with opposition media. The only journalist in the defendant's box: Eskinder Nega, who continued to blog after four newspapers that he and his wife operated were shut down following the disputed 2005 elections.

Political figures standing trial include Andualem Arage and Natnael Mekonnen, two rising stars in the UDJ, the largest party in the main opposition coalition Medrek. The UDJ chairman, former Ethiopian president Negaso Gidada, said the espionage and treason charges they face sound like the legitimate activities of any political organizer.

"Andualem and Natnael are official leaders of UDJ, and whatever they speak is for UDJ," said Gidada. "Unless [the prosecutors] have very different evidence, the accusations they brought against them should be in fact directed against UDJ. Public relations, youth organizing - they are supposed to do these things, and saying that Andualem and Natnael are accused of these things is really funny."

The exiled journalists being tried in absentia include senior editors of Addis Neger, a newspaper that closed down in the face of government pressure in 2009. The paper has continued its critical editorial line in an online edition.

Several other journalists have since gone into exile, including Argaw Ashine. Argaw was named in a WikiLeaks cable as having warned the Addis Neger staff that they were the target of a government investigation.

All 24 defendants on trial Tuesday are accused of belonging to the outlawed Ginbot 7 party led by Berhanu Nega and Andargachew Tsige. Ginbot 7 is the Ethiopian calendar date of Ethiopia's disputed 2005 elections, in which Berhanu was elected mayor of Addis Ababa.

Andargachew, described in the charge as the founder of Ginbot 7, is accused of working with Ethiopia's arch enemy Eritrea to organize a terrorist plot aimed at assassinating senior public officials and attacking sensitive government institutions.

Both Andargachew and Berhanu were tried in absentia in the same court on similar charges last year. Both were sentenced to death.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs