Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ethiopia Bans Newspaper After Stories on Meles Illness, Protests - Bloomberg

An Ethiopian court banned distribution of a newspaper that published front-page articles about Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s health and protests by Muslims in the capital, Addis Ababa, the government said.
Editors from the weekly Feteh newspaper may face criminal charges because of national security concerns, State Minister of Justice Berhanu Tsegaye said in a phone interview today. Last week, Ethiopian authorities seized 30,000 copies of the newspaper containing the stories about Meles and the protests, Hailemeskel Beshewamyelhu, a deputy editor, said July 24.
“The court has approved our decision,” Berhanu said of the Federal First Instance Court’s ruling. “We have not finalized the charges.” A decision is expected within five days, he said.
Ethiopia’s government has been criticized by the U.S. and the United Nations for using laws including counter-terrorism legislation to stifle critics including politicians and journalists. The court’s decision was made under Article 42 of the Freedom of the Mass Media and Access to Information Proclamation that allows distribution to be blocked if it presents “a clear and present grave danger to the national security,” according to the UN refugee agency’s website.
“The ban on Feteh’s latest issue illustrates the depth of repression in Ethiopia today, and authorities’ determination to suppress independent coverage of the prime minister,” CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes said July 23.
Meles has taken a leave of absence from his official duties to recover from an unspecified illness after he failed to attend the African Union summit earlier this month, the government said on July 19. Anti-government groups including the U.S.-based Ethiopian National Transitional Council have said he’s seriously ill.
Ethiopian police on July 20 arrested an unspecified number of Islamic leaders involved in protests in Addis Ababa. Muslims, who make up 34 percent of the country’s population according to the CIA World Factbook, have been protesting for eight months at mosques about alleged government interference in elections of Islamic leaders.
To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ethiopian journalist jailed for 18 years - Africa - Al Jazeera English

Eskinder Nga was convicted of working with the Ginbot 7 group, considered terrorists in Ethiopian law [Al Jazeera]
An Ethiopian court has jailed a journalist for 18 years for "terrorism" and 23 other reporters and activists for between eight years and life, after a trial condemned by rights groups.

Journalist Eskinder Nga was jailed for 18 years, while opposition member Andualem Arage got a life sentence as both men were found guilty of "participation in a terrorist organisation" and "planning...(a) terrorist act", Judge Hussein Yimer said on Friday.

Ethiopia, a major recipient of Western aid, has said it is fighting separatist rebel movements and armed groups backed by its arch-foe Eritrea.

But rights groups say the Horn of Africa country, sandwiched between volatile Somalia and Sudan, is using broad anti-terrorism legislation to crack down on dissent and media freedoms.

Andualem was also found guilty of serving as a "leader or decision maker of a terrorist organisation".
The life sentence was without the possibility of parole, the judge added. Eskinder was convicted of working with the outlawed Ginbot 7 group, considered a terrorist group under Ethiopian law.
Harsh sentences

"He (Eskinder) has been working with the Ginbot 7 organisation...," which had aggravated his sentence, the judge added.

"After taking into consideration how the criminal offence was committed, the court decided on 18 years imprisonment without parole."
Judges found the 24 defendants guilty of terrorism charges last month. Although 16 of them were convicted in absentia, having fled into exile, both Eskinder and Andualem were in court on Friday to hear their sentence.

Dressed in suits, they waved to family members as they filed into the court room, filled with friends and family of the activists, as well as journalists and diplomats.

Andualem, a member of the opposition party the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), smiled tightly and bowed his head when handed his sentence.

Defence lawyer Abebe Guta said his clients had not received a fair trial.

"In my personal opinion, we rebutted the prosecution's evidence beyond reasonable doubt, I think it's been not reasonably considered," he told reporters.

Eskinder would appeal the sentence, he said, adding that Andualem and his other clients were also considering filing appeals, which they have 45 days to do.

Exiled opposition leader Berhanu Nega, was also jailed for life on charges of treason in the aftermath of 2005's disputed parliamentary election, but was later pardoned.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tensions in Libya ahead of first post-Gadhafi vote - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Associated Press
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) - Fears of militia violence and calls for a boycott threatened Friday to mar Libya's first nationwide parliamentary election, a milestone on the oil-rich North African nation's rocky path toward democracy after the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Saturday's vote for a 200-member transitional parliament caps a tumultuous nine-month transition toward democracy for the country after a bitter civil war that ended with the capture and killing of Gadhafi in October. Many Libyans had hoped the oil-rich nation of 6 million would quickly thrive and become a magnet for investment, but the country has suffered a virtual collapse in authority that has left formidable challenges. Armed militias still operate independently, and deepening regional and tribal divisions erupt into violence with alarming frequency.
On the eve of Saturday's vote, gunmen shot down a helicopter carrying polling materials near the eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the revolution, killing one election worker, said Saleh Darhoub, a spokesman for the ruling National Transitional Council. The crew survived after a crash landing.
Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib vowed the government would ensure a safe vote Saturday, and condemned the election worker's killing and those who seek to derail the vote.
"Any action aimed at hindering the election process is against the supreme interest of the nation and serves only the remnants of the old regime," he said next to a screen showing the face of the slain worker. "It is threatening to the future of the revolution and its accomplishments ... and an attempt to stop democracy for which Libyans sacrificed their souls."
It was not immediately clear who was behind Friday's shooting, but it was the latest unrest in a messy run-up to the vote that has put a spotlight on some of the major fault lines in the country - the east-west divide, the Islamist versus secularist political struggle.
Many in Libya's oil-rich east feel slighted by the election laws issued by the National Transitional Council, the body that led the rebel cause during the civil war. The laws allocate the east less than a third of the parliamentary seats, with the rest going to the western region that includes Tripoli and the sparsely-settled desert south.
The east was systematically neglected and marginalized for decades by Gadhafi, and easterners are sensitive to anything they perceive of as an attempt to prolong that neglect after the sacrifices they made during the civil war.
After the NTC passed election laws, several tribal leaders along with former rebel commanders in the east declared self-rule, set up their own council and formed their own army, while saying that they would boycott elections and even work to prevent Saturday's vote from taking place. They are pushing for semi-autonomy for the east.
Former rebel fighters from the east late Thursday in pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns took control over oil refineries in the towns of Ras Lanouf, Brega and Sidr, shutting down the facilities to pressure the NTC to cancel the vote. Earlier this week, ex-rebel fighters and other angry protesters in Benghazi and in the nearby town of Ajdabiya attacked election offices, setting fire to ballot papers and other voting materials.
Fadlallah Haroun, a former rebel commander in the east's regional capital Benghazi and proponent of eastern semi-autonomy and an election boycott put it simply: "We don't want Tripoli to rule all of Libya."
He said boycott supporters would take to the streets on election day to "prevent people from voting, because this is a vote that serves those who stole the revolution from us." He said they would not take up arms but when asked how they would stop voters, he said, "We will see tomorrow."
It was not clear how much support the calls for a boycott enjoyed.
Nearly 2.9 million Libyans, or 80 percent of Libyans eligible to vote, have registered for the election and more than 3,000 candidates have plastered the country with posters and billboards. Polls are to be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time, with results expected within a week of voting.
There are four major parties in the race, ranging from the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood on one end of the spectrum to a secular-minded party led by a Western-educated former rebel prime minister on the other.
Flush with money, the Brotherhood's Justice and Construction party has led one of the best organized and most visible election campaigns, and they are hoping to become a political force in post-Gadhafi Libya like the Islamists have in post-revolution Egypt and Tunisia following the ouster of authoritarian regimes there.
Three other parties also are expected to perform well: Former prime minister Mahmoud Jibril's secular Alliance of National Forces, former jihadist and rebel commander Abdel-Hakim Belhaj's Al-Watan - also cofounded by Brotherhood leaders - and the National Front party, one of Libya's oldest political groups, which is credited with organizing several failed assassination attempts against Gadhafi.
The new parliament initially had two missions: to elect a new transitional government to replace the one appointed by the NTC and to put together a 60-member panel to write the country's constitution. Each of Libya's three regions was to have 20 seats on the panel.
However, in a last-minute move, the NTC decreed that the constitutional panel instead will be elected by direct vote, leaving the parliament only with the task of forming a government, angering many candidates who campaigned largely on the basis of their role in overseeing the drafting of the constitution.
Fathi Baja, a leading secular member of the NTC, alleged that the move was illegal because it came in the middle of the election process, and accused the Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating it. He said the group fears that it won't be able to secure a majority of votes in the upcoming parliament.
"It is a precautionary move by the Muslim Brotherhood," he said. "After spending so much money in the campaign, they figured that votes will be scattered and they will not be a powerful player in parliament."
A separate vote for the constitutional panel, he said, would give the Brotherhood a chance to regroup and focus its efforts on the charter.
Youssef al-Ramis, a leading Brotherhood figure, rejected the allegations, but acknowledged that the group might not win big in elections.
"After 40 years of having our reputation tarnished by the former regime, the Muslim Brotherhood still has a long way to go," he said.
The accusations point to the division that is likely to be starkly drawn in the parliament and Libya's politics in the months and years ahead - Islamist versus secular.
In a less divisive decision, the NTC also decreed that the new constitution will definitely give a role to Islamic law. In this conservative, almost entirely Muslim country, nearly all politicians accord Shariah a role in the constitution.
The difference between parties, however, would be in to what extent Shariah will be enforced.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

End the assault on female and local journalists | David Rohde

On Sunday, gangs of men sexually assaultedBritish freelance journalist Natasha Smith in Tahrir Square as crowds celebrated the results of Egypt’s presidential election.
On Wednesday, Syrian rebels attacked a pro-government television station and executed three to seven employees.
And later that day, a court in Ethiopia convictedprominent journalist Eskinder Nega of being a member of a secret plot to overthrow the government.
The theme of all the attacks? Journalists being demonized as spies, government agents or terrorists.
“We see a horrendous rise in this type of violence,” Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said at a conference this week. “Not only in deaths but in the form of harassment, and in sexual assaults against female reporters.”
In a searing and courageous blog entry posted on Tuesday, Smith, the British freelance journalist, described a vicious assault in Tahrir Square.
“The women told me the attack was motivated by rumors spread by troublemaking thugs that I was a foreign spy, following a national advertising campaign warning of the dangers of foreigners,” Smith wrote. “But if that was the cause, it was only really used as a pretext, an excuse, to molest and violate a blonde young Western girl.”
Lara Logan, an American journalist who endured a similar assault in Tahrir Square last year, said she believed recent attacks on international journalists – and on foreign and local women in Egypt– were directed by remnants of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.
“It’s a systematic campaign against journalists, who are enemies of the state,” Logan told the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based press freedom group, this week.
“They want to get the foreign media out,” Logan added. “They don’t want foreigners from the media, aid organizations, or doing democracy work. We are regarded as a threat to the regime.”
The assault on Logan last year prompted dozens of female journalists to break a code of silence and disclose previous sexual assaults. In the four months after the attack, 
 52 female reporters disclosed to the Committee to Protect Journalists that they had experienced varying degrees of sexual violence – from rape by multiple attackers to aggressive groping – in retaliation for their work or while reporting.
The victims included 27 local journalists from the Middle East, South Asia, Africa and the Americas. Twenty-five international journalists reported being assaulted, including two who said they had been raped. Several male journalists said they had been sexually abused when in detention or captivity. Most of the attacks occurred in the last five years. A small number date back 20 years.
“Many of the assaults fall into three general types,” CPJ said in a June 2011 report entitled “The Silencing Crime“. “Targeted sexual violation of specific journalists, often in reprisal for their work; mob-related sexual violence against journalists covering public events; and sexual abuse of journalists in detention or captivity.”
Journalists are also dying. This year, Syria has the world’s highest death toll. So far, 12 Syrian and foreign journalists have perished while covering the conflict there.
In February, government forces fired rockets at a makeshift press center used by Syrian and foreign journalists in the city of Homs after apparently tracking satellite telephone signals from the site. The attack killed the Syrian blogger Anas al Tarsha, French photographer Remi Ochlik and American journalist Marie Colvin. The Syrian government has also tried to use spying software to track Syrian anti-government activists, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet free-speech group.
Around the word, technological innovations are giving journalists in developing countries larger audiences and more power, according to advocates at this week’s conference, which was organized by the International Press Institute. States, in turn, are trying to silence reporters in multiple ways.
In Guatemala, a recently enacted law makes sparking a “bank panic” a criminal offense. The practical result is that journalists are barred from examining the performance of banks and other financial institutions.
In parts of Europe, the siblings and other relatives of journalists have been arrested or physically assaulted in retaliation for critical reporting. And in former British and French colonies, antiquated criminal defamation laws allow politicians and businessmen to file defamation suits carrying potential jail terms against journalists.
“We have insult laws, we have sedition laws, we have falsehood laws,” said Faith Pansy Tlakula, an African press freedom monitor. “Only 10 countries on the African continent have adopted open information laws.”
As the intimidation and harassment worsens, press, and Internet-freedom groups are increasingly calling for the United Nations to do more to protect journalists and the public’s right to information. But China, Russia, India, Brazil and other countries are calling for the U.N. to be given the power to police speech, not protect it.
They are proposing that an obscure U.N. agency – the International Telecommunication Union – have control over the administration of the World Wide Web, instead of the California-based non-profit, ICANN, that currently does.
Chinese officials argue that U.N. oversight would help block the spread of malware and spam. Press freedom groups say it is a blatant attempt to control the Web.
“Will the U.N. be the global censor?” asked Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Or the global defender of the right to information?”
Let’s hope it’s the latter.
ILLUSTRATION: Elsa Jenna/Reuters
NOTE: The number of women who reported sexual violence to the Committee to Protect Journalists was corrected to 52 from 42.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ethiopia refining Internet censorship | Fox News-Journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists says it appears Ethiopia is extending and refining its censorship of Internet news with a sophistication that could encourage other authoritarian regimes in Africa.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government has been blocking major news sites and blog hosts since disputed general election results in 2005 led to violent protests. Voice Over Internet Protocol such as Skype also is blocked, forcing people to use the state telephone system.
A CPJ statement Monday says "the rollout of a far more pervasive and sophisticated blocking system" started in April to include smaller blogs by exiles and news services, and even individual Facebook pages.
"The gap through which undetected, uncensored news gets in and out of Ethiopia is definitely narrowing," encouraging similar action from authoritarian regimes such as Sudan.

Read more:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Swedes Schibbye and Persson mark year in Ethiopian Dictator jail

Swedes Schibbye and Persson mark year in Ethiopia jail 


  Ethiopia - Two Swedish journalists convicted in Ethiopia for entering the country illegally and supporting terrorism have now spent one year in prison.

  Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were captured together with rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

  On the eve of the anniversary of their arrest, the pair said in a statement that the biggest challenge for them now was "psychological".

  They have always argued that they were just doing their jobs as journalists.

  "It has been the longest year in our lives," photojournalist Person and reporter Schibbye said in the statement conveyed via Swedish diplomats who met them at the prison earlier this week.

  "Initially we only focused on eating, keeping warm on the cement floor and not falling ill. Today the challenge is psychological. Prison kills your intellect."

  Ethiopian prosecutors had asked for longer sentences of up to 18 years, but the presiding judge decided last year that 11 years was appropriate.

  Human rights group Amnesty International has said the journalists were prosecuted for doing "legitimate work".

  But Ethiopia's government spokesman Bereket Simon has said the journalists were "red handed" co-operating with "terrorist organisations".

  Media reports have suggested that the reporters would not appeal their sentence, but rather apply for clemency.

  Schibbye and Persson were captured by Ethiopian troops during a clash with ONLF fighters on 1 July.

  The men acknowledged during their trial that they had held talks with ONLF leaders in London and Nairobi, before entering Ethiopia from Somalia and meeting about 20 members of the group 40km (25 miles) from the border.

  However, they said their contacts with the ONLF were intended to help them to get into a region the Ethiopian authorities would not allow journalists to enter.

  They said they wanted to report on the activities of a Swedish oil company, Lundin Petroleum, in the Ogaden.

  Both men denied terrorism charges, including claims that they had been given weapons training.

  Rebels in the Ogaden region have been fighting for independence since the 1970s and the ONLF has been at the forefront of the fight since it was founded in 1984.

  The Ogaden is an ethnic Somali part of Ethiopia.

  One ONLF faction has signed a peace deal with the government, but another splinter group has continued to fight the army.

  Rights groups accuse Ethiopia of trying to cover up abuses by troops in the region.

Angola Press

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