News / Africa

Family: Ethiopian Winner of Press Freedom Prize Suffering in Prison

Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu © IWMFEthiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu © IWMF
x
Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu © IWMF
Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu © IWMF
Marthe van der Wolf
The family of Reeyot Alemu, this year’s winner of the World Press Freedom Prize, says her situation in an Ethiopian prison is worsening by the day.
 
Reeyot Alemu and Eskinder Nega are two of the best-known Ethiopian journalists imprisoned on charges of terrorism. UNESCO awarded Reeyot the 2013 World Press Freedom Prize for her exceptional courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression. But Reeyot's family and friends say she and her relatives are suffering.
 
Reeyot's father and lawyer Alemu Gobebo says that Reeyot feels honored to win the prize.
 
“As you know it is a prestigious prize," said Gobebo. "She was very glad, she was telling me that it is the international organization which is awarding me for my beliefs and fighting for freedom of speech and expression of thought. For that matter, this prize is good for her.”
 
Reeyot, 33,  was sentenced to 14 years of prison after being found guilty of conspiring to commit terrorist acts, money laundering and participation in a terrorist organization. Her sentence was reduced to five years after she appealed her conviction and two charges were dropped.
 
Reeyot is imprisoned just outside the capital, Addis Ababa. On weekdays Reeyot’s family can visit her for 10 minutes. On the weekends they get to spend half an hour with her. The imprisonment has had negative consequences for the whole family, says Reeyot’s sister Eskeder Alemu.
 
“Reeyot is the breadwinner of our family, so it has affected our family by losing her," she said. "And I stopped a job because somebody came to my office and told my bosses. They said she’s Reeyot’s sister, she is a terrorist sister so you have to fire her. Then they fired me.”
 
Reeyot’s health is deteriorating, and she is suffering from a breast tumor, sinusitis and gastritis. Journalist Anania Sorri is a close friend of Reeyot who has been harassed himself many times for writing critical stories about the government’s developmental state. He says that Reeyot is denied proper medical treatment while also being threatened with solitary confinement:
 
“It is a current threatening instrument for the prison officials, they say that she has been violating some disciplinary kind of activities in the prison and that she has been releasing some kind of information about the prison situation to the foreign media," said Sorri.
 
The U.S. State Department released a report last month criticizing Ethiopia’s human rights record. International organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also accuse Ethiopia of using an anti-terrorism proclamation to silence dissident and critical voices. On Thursday, the appeal of prominent journalist Eskinder Nega was denied, meaning he has to serve his 18-year sentence.
 
The State Minister in Ethiopia’s Prime Minister's office, Getachew Redda, says the international criticism is not based on facts.
 
"The government feels that this criticism are totally misplaced and mostly made without the proper understanding of the basic tenets of the anti-terror legislation," said Redda. "As a matter of fact, the anti-terror proclamation is copied from some of the advanced legal systems in the world. If you have journalists or opposition members who make it their business to be involved in terrorist activities, simply because they are journalists doesn’t mean that they will be left free to mess with the security of the country.”
 
Reeyot has served one year and 10 months of her five-year sentence so far. There are six more journalists imprisoned today in Ethiopia.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: deve
May 13, 2013 7:49 AM
This is the act of hero! bu l know her at prison very well she has good moral even to defend ETHIOPIAN GOVE. we are her supporter ! NO ferddom in ethiopia!

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