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Thursday, June 09, 2005

CPJ Protests Harassment of Journalists in Ethiopia

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Wednesday expressed deep concern over "recent harassment and censorship" of journalists reporting on Ethiopia`s 15 May parliamentary elections and their aftermath.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Meles Zanawi, the New York-based media freedom watchdog said "pressure on the media has increased amid violent post-election clashes between government security forces and opposition supporters."

It said the Information Ministry Tuesday revoked the accreditation of five Ethiopian journalists working for foreign media.

Helen Mohammed, Temam Aman, and Bereket Teklu of Voice of America (VOA); and Taddesse Engidaw and Assegedech Yiberta of Deutsche-Welle (German Radio) reported Wednesday to the Ministry, where their work permits, which also serve as legal identification, were confiscated, CPJ said.

An Information Ministry statement carried by State media accused the journalists of filing "unbalanced reports" on the elections.

The statement warned that the journalists would face "legal action" if they continued reporting, adding that government would "take similar action in [the] future if journalists are found filing false and unbalanced reports."

The journalists had reported extensively on political campaigning, the voting itself, and the violent unrest that has seized the capital in the aftermath of the elections.

CPJ said it was unclear what reports had angered government.

"In addition to this disturbing action against reporters simply doing their jobs, there have been several incidents in which government security forces harassed journalists based in the capital, Addis Ababa," the Committee charged.

It said police on Monday confiscated cameras from American Associated Press journalists covering violent student protests.

When reporter Anthony Mitchell and photographer Boris Heger went to the police station to recover their equipment, they were prevented from leaving for seven hours, and police officers erased the memory cards before returning the cameras, CPJ added.

It is also said that on 2 June, State officials detained at least six editors from the Amharic-language press who reported to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Addis Ababa after receiving summonses.

The editors, of the private weeklies Abay, Addis Zena, and Menilik, CPJ said, were held and questioned for several hours about articles they published during the election period. They were released without charge.

"CPJ is deeply troubled by your government`s harassment and censorship of journalists reporting on matters of public concern. We urge Your Excellency to ensure that journalists in Ethiopia are free to do their jobs without fear of reprisal," the Committee said in the letter to Prime Minister Meles.

It also called on him "to ensure that accreditation is restored to Helen Mohammed, Temam Aman, Bereket Teklu, Taddesse Engidaw, and Assegedech Yiberta so that they can continue to fill their vital role in assisting the free flow of information necessary to any democracy."

AngolaPress

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