More than two years later: Ethiopian journalists still seek resettlement

Written By: Moneer Al-Omari (YEMEN POST STAFF)
Article Date: November 19, 2007

It's been over two years and about 100 Ethiopian newspaper editors and journalists are still trying to find a stable and peaceful life. Their only crime is that they helped spread public awareness in their country at a time of dictatorship and army ruled government. They kept fleeing their country over the last few years, especially following the general Ethiopian elections conducted in May 15, 2005, according to Daniel Gezahegen, who was the editor-in-chief of the Addis Ababa-based Mogad newspaper. Further, over 20 opposition editors are still in prison.
Several international human rights and press organizations have criticized Ethiopia for its low record in this respect and asked the government to stop its suppression against editors and journalists and to respect human rights.
To escape the regime's further suppression and prison, Ethiopian editors have sought refugee status in different countries and some of them have been accepted and resettled in their hosting countries; while others have not or they are in the process.
Along with Gezahegen, another journalist who chose Yemen to host them was Tamrat Serbessa. He left behind his own families and people. They risked their lives in a hazardous journey heading to Yemen as they reached Aden earlier this year.
Gezahegen was the editor-in-chief of Addis Ababa-based Mogad, an Amharic language newspaper and Serbesa was editor-in-chief of the private Amharic-language weekly Satanaw.
He was arrested several times over writings criticizing the regime and outspoken articles published in his news paper, the last of which was in 2005 over covering the post-elections unrest and the alleged defamation of the Ethiopian Air force affiliates as well as defying the ruling system. He was set free after he paid a bail mounting to $ 114.
His fellow editor Serbesa was arrested as well over defaming the ruling system and contesting the legality of the May 15 elections. He was jailed on July 8, 2005 for one day and released on bail.
Both editors complain their life is difficult in Yemen and they cannot do anything about it, especially when Gezahegen is diabetic and Serbesa is partially paralyzed. They further note the have spent over two years in Yemen and applied to UNHCR for refugee status; however, they are not accepted until now.
"We have suffered a lot and we lead a very awful life since our arrival in Aden early in 2006. We spent few months in an Aden's old and open building, which used to be an Indian hotel in the past. We lived on people's help. Later police raided the place and forced them out the building," Gezahegen narrated.
He went on to say that a fellow Ethiopian journalist offered him to reside with him in Sana'a and thus he shifted to Sana'a along with Serbesa. However, his living in Sana'a is no better than Aden and Gezahesgen alleges his life is not safe and the Sana'a-based Ethiopian Embassy affiliates chase him and his friend.
Now, he wishes the UNHCR would accept his application or work to relocate him in the US.
"We want nothing just to be granted refugee status by the UNHCR here in Yemen or to be relocated somewhere. About two years have elapsed since we arrived in Yemen and our case has not changed," maintained.
The two journalists are now in Yemen, only hoping that their long patience is worth the wait. "We have lived in Yemen for nearly one year, and we still await justice as well as support from our colleague journalists," concluded Gezahegen.
The journalist complain the lack of support they have received CPJ. They claim that their last release of CPJ was months ago, but did not help at all.
Today they live a life of unemployment and count on their friends and colleagues to support them financially. "Our friends and colleagues who where lucky enough to be exiled to the United States are the ones who support us with the little they have. We appreciate their efforts and support."
The suffering will continue for the Ethiopian journalist until; a final destination is found for them. It has been years since they have seen their wife and children, but they continue to be hopeful. "One day will come when we will get our right. With patience their will always be prosperity, Gezahegen concluded.

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