News / Africa

Family: Ethiopian Winner of Press Freedom Prize Suffering in Prison

Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu © IWMFEthiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu © IWMF
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

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanoni
John Owens
October 08, 2015 7:32 PM
Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs