Ethiopia: Eight journalists released after 17 months in prison; seven still detained

English PEN welcomes the release from prison of eight Ethiopian journalists on 9 April 2007. However PEN also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of six other journalists and two academics who remain in detention.
According to PEN sources, the eight journalists released were Zekarias Tesfaye (Netsanet), Sisay Agena (Ethiop and Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association), Eskinder Nega and his wife Serkalem Fasil (Asqual, Menelik and Satenaw), Fasil Yenealem (Addis Zena), Dereje Habtewold (Menilik and Netsanet), Nardos Meaza (Satenaw) and Feleke Tibebu (Hadar). The journalists were acquitted by Ethiopia’s High Court on 9 April 2007 and released from Kality prison on the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa. Detained in November 2005, they had spent 17 months in prison.

The acquitted journalists had been charged with ‘outrages against the constitution or constitutional order,’ ‘impairment of the defensive power of the state’ and ‘attempted genocide’ following the publication of editorials critical of the Government’s conduct around the May 2005 parliamentary elections. More than 190 people died during a massive Government crackdown on post-election protests after the opposition contested the victory of the ruling party. The journalists are all associated with Amharic-language publications which have been banned since the crackdown. The Court also acquitted 17 other individuals of similar charges.

Although English PEN welcomes the release of the eight journalists, it regrets that to its knowledge at least six other journalists and two academics remain imprisoned on similar charges. The detained journalists are: Solomon Aregawia (Hadar), Andualem Ayele (Ethiop), Dawit Kebede (Hadar), Goshu Moges (Lisane Hezeb), Mesfin Tesfaye (Abay) and Wonakseged Zeleke (Asqual). The detained academics are Dr Berhanu Nega (economist and vice chairman of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy – CUD) and Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam (75, author and former chair of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council)
Ethiopia has the second highest number of journalists in prison in Africa after Eritrea, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Additional information:


•         Serkalem Fasil gave birth to a son in prison in June 2006. Her husband, Nega, was also acquitted on three additional charges connected to his alleged political activism.  She was also featured in International PEN’s Actions marking International Women’s Day on 8 March 2007
•         Sisay Agena and Eskinder Nega are honorary members of PEN USA.
Please send appeals:

•         Welcoming the release of the eight journalists acquitted on 9 April
•         Calling for the dismissal of all remaining charges against the six other journalists and two academics still being detained, and for their immediate and unconditional release



His Excellency Meles Zenawi
Office of the Prime Minister
PO Box 1031
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: 251 11 1552020
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr Seyoum Mesfin
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
PO Box 393
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: 251 11 551 43 00
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Justice
Mr Assefa Kesito
Ministry of Justice
PO Box 1370
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: 251 11 5517775 / 5520874
Salutation: Dear Minister
It may more effective to send appeals to Ethiopian representatives in London:
His Excellency Mr Berhanu Kebede

Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

17 Prince’s Gate
London SW7 1PZ

Fax: (020) 7584 7054

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