IPI retained Ethiopia on its Watch list

IPI Watch List Report

Ethiopia
Ethiopia was placed on the IPI Watch List at a board meeting on 15 May 2004. A press release announcing the decision quoted IPI Director Johann P. Fritz as saying, "While I acknowledge the severe problems in the areas of poverty, education, health and food production in Ethiopia and the pressures these place on the government, the IPI Executive Board felt that the forthcoming elections could lead to greater difficulties for press freedom and access to information and, with this in mind, it was decided that IPI should pay careful attention to the Ethiopia media environment in order to support journalists."

November 2007 Update
Although some journalists were released from prison this year, the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi continues to prosecute and jail members of the media profession. The independent media in Ethiopia is slowly disappearing: newspapers have been banned, Websites have been blocked and the only television broadcaster is the state-run Ethiopian Television. As a result, in the latter part of 2007, there was a continuing decline in press freedom.
In June, four journalists, Andualem Ayele Legesse of the Ethiop newspaper, Mesfin Tesfaye Gobena of Abay, Wonakseged Zeleke Tessema of Asqual and Dawit Fasil Woldeselassie of Satenaw were convicted of charges carrying life imprisonment or death.
The journalists were arrested after the government carried out a crackdown on the media and opposition groups in November 2005 following post-election protests. The Addis Ababa court also convicted three publishers on related charges. Two months before these convictions, the Ethiopian government had released eight journalists.
Following their convictions, the prosecutor in the cases demanded the death penalty for the journalists. The decision led to strong criticism from the international community, including the International Federation of Journalists, which stated, "sadly Ethiopia has a long history of trampling press freedom but sentencing these journalists to death would push the country to a new low for human rights and freedom of expression." Based on reports, a negotiated deal was discussed whereby the prisoners would recognise their culpability in return for a pardon.
On 27 July, the four editors, and two academics sentenced alongside them, were released following a presidential pardon. In early August, four more journalists received heavy jail sentences. Editors Dawit Kebede of Hadar and Wosonseged Gebrekidan of Addis Zena were sentenced to four years in prison each on charges of "inciting and conspiring to commit outrages to the constitutional order," while editor Goshu Moges of Lisane Hezeb and freelance columnist Tadios Tantu were convicted on similar charges. On 20 August, the journalists were released on a conditional pardon. The Ethiopian government said they could continue their media activities, but were forbidden from engaging in "any subversive action against the Constitution." A spokesperson also said they could return to criticising the government and denied that guilty confessions were obtained from the journalists through duress.
In September, there were attempts to force the Ethiopian government to provide information about detained Eritrean journalists, Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi and Saleh Idris Gama form the Eritrean state broadcaster Eri-TV.
During April, a video trilogy titled "The Strategy of Sowing Discord by Isaias [Afewerki's] Eritrean Clique," which appeared on an Ethiopian government Website Waltainfo, suggested the journalists were involved in military activities in Somalia. The journalists had been sent to Mogadishu by the Eritrean government, but later went towards Kenya, reaching the border, before Kenyan forces intercepted them. They were held for three weeks and then handed over to the Ethiopian authorities. According to the video testimony, the journalists have admitted their connection to the Eritrean military. In response, the Ethiopian government refused to comment on the whereabouts of the two journalists.

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at1:24 AM

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