[Ethiopia] Two journalists given 14 years in prison; one sentenced to life imprisonment

English PEN is outraged at the draconian sentences handed down to Ethiopian journalists Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye and Elias Kifle. Alemu and Taye have been sentenced to 14 years in prison; Kifle, who is currently in exile in the US, was tried in absentia and has been sentenced to  life imprisonment. The three were convicted on terrorism-related charges; PEN belives that have been convicted because of their critical reporting, in violation of their right to free expression. We call for their convictions to be overturned and for Alemu and Taye to be released immediately.

On 19 January 2012, an Ethiopian court convicted Alemu, Taye and Kifle of lending support to groups designated ‘terrorist’ under Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law. On 26 January 2012, Alemu and Taye received 14 year prison sentences; Kifle received a life sentence.

Alemu, a contributor to the independent weekly Feteh, and Taye, deputy editor of the now-defunct Awramba Times, were arrested in June 2011 and accused of plotting to sabotage telephone and electricity lines; they were charged using anti-terrorism legislation in September 2011. It is widely believed by press freedom groups that they were targeted for their coverage of banned opposition groups. There are reports that Taye was tortured after his arrest, and that the health of both journalists has deteriorated whilst in jail.

Kifle, editor of the US-based opposition website Ethiopian Review, was sentenced to life in absentia. In 2007 he was convicted of treason (also in absentia). The treason charge was based on his coverage of the government’s repression of the 2005 post-election protests.

For more information on Alemu, Taye and Kifle, please click here.


Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law, which criminalises any reporting deemed to ‘encourage’ or ‘provide moral support’ to groups and causes which the government considers to be ‘terrorist’, has been widely criticised as being vaguely worded and catch-all.

In December 2011, Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were controversially convicted of supporting terrorism and sentenced to 11 years in prison. 



Please send appeals:

– Protesting the 14-year sentence handed down to Woubshet Taye and Reeyot Alemu and calling for their immediate release;
– Calling for the immediate overturning of the draconian life sentence handed to Elias Kifle;
– Expressing concern that the journalists have been tried and convicted purely in relation to their peaceful journalistic activity. These convictions are therefore in violation of the right to free of expression protected under international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party, including the United Nation Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

Appeal to:

Minister of Justice
Mr Berhanu Hailu
Ministry of Justice
PO Box 1370
Addis Ababa
Fax: 251 11 551 7775 / 7755
Email: justice@telecom.net.et
Email: ministry-justice@telecom.net.et

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr Seyoum Mesfin
PO Box 393
Addis Ababa
Fax: 251 11 551 3400
Email: mfa.addis@telecom.net.et

His Excellency Mr. Ato Berhanu
Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
17 Princes Gate,
Fax: 020 7584 7054
Email: ambassador@ethioembassy.org.uk


– Send this link on to any friends or
colleagues that you think may be interested, asking them to take action
of behalf of Ethiopian journalists Alemu, Taye and Kifle.

– Write articles and blog pieces about their cases to help raise awareness here in the UK.

– Use social media to help news of their cases reach even more people.

– For those of you on Facebook, please share our bulletin with your friends and encourage them to take action.

– For those of you on Twitter,
please tweet a message about Alemu, Taye and Kifle to your followers. You may use to
use this shortened link to the bulletin on our website –

[Sample tweet: ‘Join me in taking action for three Ethiopian journalists http://bit.ly/wtXpqR via @englishpen’)

Thank you for your support.

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/wipcnews/ethiopiatwojournalistsgiven14yearsinprisononesentencedtolife/

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

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