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Ethiopia

Key Developments

» New leader continues Meles Zenawi's onslaught on the press.

» Government retaliates against jailed journalists, heightens online censorship.

A year after the death of Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn succeeded in preserving the repressive climate in Ethiopia. Several journalists faced interrogation or prosecution for writing about the late leader, his policies, and even his widow. One journalist, Temesghen Desalegn, former chief editor of the critical weekly Feteh, was charged in February with defaming the government in connection with his articles on Meles. Some reporters attempting to cover other sensitive topics, like anti-government protests and the forced eviction of farmers, were also detained and harassed, while others fled the country fearing arrest. The government did not disclose the health, whereabouts, or legal status of two journalists who have been in custody for seven years. Authorities banned two independent newspapers, accusing them of violating press regulations, as well as a private broadcaster which was reporting extensively on peaceful protests by Ethiopian Muslims. The country faced international condemnation over the imprisonment of award-winning journalists Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, and Woubshet Taye, who were serving heavy terms on vague terrorism charges, but the Ethiopian government retaliated by imposing harsher conditions on them, including the threat of solitary confinement. Authorities continued to crack down on the online press by increasing its “technological capacity to filter, block, and monitor Internet and mobile phone communications,” according to an October report by Freedom House.



  • 6

    Retaliatory measures in prison
  • 7

    Journalists jailed
  • 3

    News outlets banned
  • 7

    Years of detention
  • 70

    News and opinion websites blocked
 

Ethiopia’s Federal Prison Administration issued a series of threats and restrictions to Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu and Woubshet Taye, award-winning journalists who were serving harsh prison terms on vague terror charges.

CPJ found that the measures were in contravention of the prisoners’ rights under the constitution and international regulations governing the treatment of detainees.


Timeline of retaliation:

April 2013:

Prison officials threaten Reeyot with solitary confinement for two months.

April 19, 2013:

Prison officials transfer Woubshet from Kilinto Prison, outside Addis Ababa, to a detention facility in the town of Ziway, about 83 miles southeast of the capital and far from his family.

September 10, 2013:

Prison officials limit the number of visitors allowed to see Reeyot. She goes on hunger strike to protest the arbitrary restriction, and authorities retaliate by limiting visitors to her parents and a priest.

September 13, 2013:

Prison officials ban Reeyot’s younger sister and her fiancé from her visitor list.

October 2013:

Prison officials restrict Eskinder's visitors to four family members.

December 2013:

Prison officials ignore doctors' orders that Woubshet be transferred to a properly equipped medical facility in connection with kidney pains the journalist suffered, and instead send him back and forth between prisons.
 

A year after Hailemarian Desalegn succeeded Meles Zenawi as prime minister, there was no change in the number of Ethiopian journalists behind bars. Ethiopia remained the second worst jailer of journalists in Africa, trailing only Eritrea, according to CPJ research.

World's worst jailers:
imprisoned_2013
Azerbaijan: 8
Bahrain: 3
Bangladesh: 1
China: 32
Democratic Republic of Congo: 1
Egypt: 5
Eritrea: 22
Ethiopia: 7
Gambia: 1
India: 1
Iran: 35
Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: 3
Italy: 1
Jordan: 2
Kuwait: 1
Kyrgyzstan: 1
Macedonia: 1
Morocco: 1
Pakistan: 1
Republic of Congo: 1
Russia: 2
Rwanda: 1
Saudi Arabia: 2
Somalia: 2
Syria: 12
Thailand: 1
Turkey: 40
United States: 1
Uzbekistan: 4
Vietnam: 18


 

Authorities continued to silence independent news outlets over information critical of government. In August, security forces arrested the leading journalists of Radio Bilal, forcing the online station to close down as it was reporting on anti-government protests by Ethiopian Muslims. The government-controlled media regulatory agency Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority indefinitely banned two independent newspapers, Addis Times and Le'ilena, citing spurious regulatory violations, according to news reports.


Banned or suspended over time:

2009:

Addis Neger

2010:

National Post (license denied)

2011:

Awramba Times

2012:

Feteh, YeMuslimoch Guday, Selefiah, Sewtul Islam, Zare Zena (license denied)

2013:

Addis Times, Le'ilena, Radio Bilal
 

Since publicly acknowledging the detention of Eritrean state TV journalists Saleh Idris Gama and Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi in 2006, authorities have not disclosed their whereabouts, health, or legal status. Ethiopian officials have provided scant and, at times, conflicting information about the two journalists.

The Ethiopian government accused the journalists of involvement in anti-Ethiopian military activities, but never presented any credible evidence to back up the accusations.

Timeline of events:

December 29-30, 2006:

Tesfalidet, a producer for Eritrea's state broadcaster Eri-TV, and Saleh, a cameraman, are arrested by Kenyan security forces on the Kenya-Somalia border.

January 20, 2007:

The two are taken into custody by Ethiopian security forces.

April 2007:

Ethiopia announces the capture of 41 unnamed foreign terrorist suspects arrested in Somalia, adding that 12 of them will face trial before military court. The journalists appear in a three-part propaganda video posted on the pro-government website Waltainfo and portrayed as participants in military activities in Somalia.

July 2007:

Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Wahid Belay tells CPJ that the government cannot provide any information on the journalists’ detention.

August 2008:

Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon tells CPJ that court proceedings against the journalists are pending, but declines to provide details.

October 2009:

Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Wahid Belay tells CPJ that he has no information about the two journalists.

February 2011:

In response to CPJ’s inquiry, Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti denies the journalists are in Ethiopian custody.

September 2011:

In a press conference, then-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi declares that the journalists would be freed if investigations determine they were not involved in espionage.

2013:

Ethiopian Justice Ministry Spokesman Desalegn Teresa does not respond to CPJ's repeated phone calls for comment.
 

Within a month in January 2013, at least 70 independent news and opinion websites, some of which were based abroad, were inaccessible inside the country, according to a report by Freedom House. The report, called “Freedom of the Net,” studies Internet freedom around the world.

The government consistently denied blocking the Internet.


Cases of internet censorship:

40

Blogs

7

Broadcast websites

40

Facebook pages




Attacks on the Press: Table of Contents