Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Authorities Stifle Coverage of Post-Electoral Unrest

IFEX -- In the wake of a violent crackdown on protesters following the 15 May 2005 parliamentary elections in Ethiopia, an alarming number of journalists are being arrested and charged for reporting on the situation, report IFEX members.

On 1 July 2005, three editors from the independent newspaper "Lisane Hezeb" were arrested for printing a photo that depicted the brutal arrest of two young demonstrators, according to the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association (EFJA). Taye Belachew, Tadesse Kebede and Tegist Abrham were released on bail later that day. They may face charges.

Two other editors - Fassil Yenalem of "Addis Zena" and Daniel Gezahegne of "Moged" - were also arrested on 1 July for printing letters from readers that criticised Ethiopia's Orthodox Church for being silent about the police crackdown on post-election protests.

In a statement published on 1 July in state-run media, the Ethiopian army said the newspapers had violated the country's press laws and warned news media to avoid printing "defamatory and baseless" articles.

The arrests followed libel charges filed on 28 June against four senior editors whose newspapers had reported on the alleged defection of Ethiopian air force pilots during a training programme in Belarus last week, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Befekadu Moreda, editor-in-chief of "Tomar", Zelalem Gebre of "Menilik", Dawit Fassil, editor-in-chief of "Asqual" and Tamrat Serbesa, editor-in-chief of "Satenaw", are being charged for defaming the military. Prior to the charges, they had been detained for seven hours before being released on bail on 28 June.

The International Press Institute (IPI) has urged the Ethiopian government to stop attempting to influence the free flow of information, arguing that "newspapers must have the right to choose the stories that they wish to cover, no matter how badly these stories reflect on the government."

The African Press Network for the 21st Century has launched an online letter-writing action to express concern about government harassment of independent media (sign the letter here: http://www.rap21.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=394).

Ethiopia has attracted international criticism for violently cracking down on opposition supporters following the 15 May elections. At least 36 people were killed. Authorities have agreed to conduct vote recounts in districts that have been disputed by opposition parties. Election results are expected to be announced on 8 July.

- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=14255
- EFJA: http://allafrica.com/stories/200506300835.html
- IPI Watch List - Ethiopia: http://www.freemedia.at/r_wl_ethiopia.htm
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2005/Ethiopia28june05na.html
- RAP 21: http://www.rap21.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=394
- Ethiopia Probes Electoral Fraud Allegations: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4638481.stm
- EU Assessment of 2005 Elections: http://tinyurl.com/a592z
- BBC's Hard Talk Interviews Meles Zenawi:
- IRINNews: http://tinyurl.com/c5ufe

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