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Reporters Without Borders Calls for Amnesty for Ethiopian Detainees

Monday, May 15th, is the one-year anniversary of Ethiopia’s parliamentary elections, which triggered massive protests. Many people were arrested during those demonstrations, including opposition members, human rights activists and journalists.

The government has filed treason and other charges against them, accusing them of trying to “dismantle the constitution and constitutional order through street violence and bloodshed.”

Many groups dispute those charges and have called for the detainee’s release. Friday, Reporters Without Borders – a press freedom group – sent a letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, asking that he grant amnesty. Leonard Vincent is the Africa desk officer for Reporters Without Borders. From Paris, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the letter.

“We’re asking, first of all, for the first time in one year he hears the call and the appeals of the international organizations and the international community. We have today 21 journalists in jail and more than 100 opposition members in jail also charged with very extravagant charges. So there has to be an issue in order that Ethiopia can be ruled again in peace,” he says.

Some say that the charges are bogus and granting amnesty is unnecessary and that Meles should simply release the detainees. Vincent says, “We are giving our hand to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and saying that an amnesty is a way of starting from the beginning again. And we’re not only saying that he should amnesty the prisoners. He chooses the way to get these men and women out of jail…We are calling (on) him to hold a national reconciliation conference, specifically on the aspect of the press, the problems that the press has had in November when there was violence in the streets.”

He says Reporters Without Borders wants to travel to Ethiopia and meet with the prime minister.