Friday, May 17, 2013

Ethiopian Journalist Arrested Over Article About Former PM's Wife

Marthe van der Wolf

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Anger in Ethiopia after Eritrea supports Egypt’s “right” to Nile water – Bikya News

ADDIS ABABA: Anger is fomenting in Ethiopia following last month’s statements from the Eritrean government over who has a right to Nile River water, which has become a contentious issue in recent years between Ethiopia and Egypt, who claims the lion’s share of water from the world’s largest waterway.
The Eritrean government said in April that it supported Egypt’s position over a controversial colonial-era treaty that grants Egypt a right a majority of the Nile’s water resources.
The Red Sea nation expressed its support in a message sent from the Eritrean president and delivered to Egypt’s president by Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs, Yemane Gebreab.
The Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, has highly welcomed Eritrea’s position towards Egypt’s “historic rights” over the sharing of the water of the Nile River.
Morsi said that he looks forward to meeting his Eritrean counterpart.
Here in Ethiopia, government officials told that the issue has led to increased tensions between the two neighbors, which have fought wars over territory.
“This is just not right and we demand the Eritrean government issue an apology and deliver what is Ethiopia’s to Ethiopia. The Nile River cannot be an issue that leads to violence,” a water official said, hinting that war over water in the region is on the rise.
he dam project has seen widespread concerns from Egypt and Sudan, who have echoed the Saudi official’s sentiments over the project, which they see as an infringement on their historical rights to Nile water.
The dam could threaten the regional stability after the Egyptian government said it remained “concerned” over Ethiopia’s actions along the Nile River.
The anger comes as Ethiopia and Eritrea both attempt to mend relations strained over the years.
Ethiopian government officials this week reaffirmed their commitment to have peace discussions with longtime foe and neighbor Eritrea with the aim of ending decades of tension along the border that has seen war and strife.
During his meeting with the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York, the Ethiopian Minister of foreign Affairs Tedros Adhanom accused the Eritrean government of refusing to engage in peace talks.
Adhanom said his country is ready to sit down for direct negotiations with Eritrea without any preconditions regarding to level, time or venue.
But the Ethiopian top diplomat stressed “the belligerent party opposed to these talks has always been the Eritrean side”.
According to the ministry of foreign Affairs, Tedros expressed solidarity with the people of Eritrea whom he said are continuously suffering due the regime’s “brutality and obstinacy to peace”.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a border war in 1998-2000 that has killed an estimated 70,000 people.
The two East African adversaries remain at loggerheads since the disputed key town of Badme had been awarded to Eritrea by an international border commission.
Government officials here in the Ethiopia capital told that they are “confident” that the situation will finally be resolved.
One foreign ministry spokesperson, who was not authorized to speak with the media, said that they hoped “the ongoing discussions between government officials would lead to a finality of the situation and help to build and mend the broken ties between the two countries.”
It is still unclear where the people fall in the ongoing negotiations, with many telling that they believe the time is now to end the tension along the border and start to build new economic relations.

Ethiopia confirms jail term for blogger | News24

Addis Ababa – An Ethiopian court on Thursday dismissed the appeal of blogger Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage who were jailed last year for terror-related offences.
"The sentencing is still correct so there is no reduction," said Supreme Court judge Dagne Melaku, confirming Eskinder's jail term of 18 years and Andualem's life sentence.
One of the charges - serving as a leader of a terrorist organisation - was dropped, but had no effect on sentencing.
After the ruling, Eskinder made an emotional appeal to the court which was crowded with family, friends and diplomats.
"The truth will set us free," he said. "We want the Ethiopian public to know that the truth will reveal itself, it's only a matter of time."
Both men are accused of links to the outlawed opposition group Ginbot 7.
"The walls of justice will be demolished," Andualem told AFP.
Four other men also jailed for terror-related charges had their appeal quashed.
One other defendant, however, Kinfe Michael, had his sentence reduced from 25 years to 16 years.
Rights groups have called Ethiopia's anti-terrorism legislation vague and accuse the government of using the law to stifle peaceful dissent.
"I am very sad, I am very angry, I cannot talk rationally," Eskinder's wife Serkalem Fasil told AFP after the decision.
Harsh sentencing
Defence lawyer Abebe Guta said that justice had not been served, and that if his clients agreed, they would appeal to the court of cassation, Ethiopia's highest court.
The US was "deeply disappointed" that Ethiopia's federal supreme court upheld the men's "conviction and harsh sentencing," acting deputy State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said.
"Today's decision further reinforces our serious concern about Ethiopia's politicised prosecution of those critical of the government and ruling party, including under the anti-terrorism proclamation."
He did not say if the court's decision would impact a planned trip to Ethiopia by US Secretary of State John Kerry at the end of May.
Ethiopia has one of the most restricted media in the world and the highest number of journalists living in exile, according to US-based press watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Last year Eskinder was awarded the prestigious PEN America's "Freedom to Write" annual prize.
Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the initial conviction of Eskinder in July 2012.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

AU urged to stand for press freedom and protection of journalists - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

May 3, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - As the globe marks the World Press Freedom Day on Friday the international press rights group, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), called on the African Union (AU) to promote press freedom and to engage in protecting African journalists.
In an open letter it sent to Chairperson of the African Union, Nkosazana Zuma, CPJ urged the AU chief to play a leading role in the efforts of releasing all journalists imprisoned in Africa.
"We urge you to use your office to persuade member states to comply with the letter and spirit of conventions they have signed that uphold press freedom," said CPJ Executive Director, Joel Simon.
The press advocacy group further appealed for justice to all African journalists killed in the course of duty.
According to CPJ research no justice was served to at least 80 journalists murdered in the continent since 1992.
At least 41 African journalists are said to spend World Press Freedom Day imprisoned in direct reprisal for their journalistic duty.
Nigeria where five journalists have been killed with impunity since 2009 and the East African nation of Somalia were labeled among worst nations globally in combating deadly, anti-press violence.
CPJ was alarmed that Ethiopia and the Gambia, which host offices of the AU, are among the nations holding journalists in jail.
"It is particularly disturbing that Ethiopia and the Gambia, which host offices of the African Union, are among the nations holding journalists in jail” Simon said.
“These imprisonments have silenced important voices, often in contravention of regional and international rulings".
With seven journalists behind bars, Ethiopia is one of Africa’s foremost jailer of journalists behind neighboring Eritrea which imprisons at least 30 journalists.
Meanwhile an Ethiopian court on Thursday rejected an appeal over the case of the blogger Eskinder Nega who is held on terrorism related charges.
The court upheld an 18-year prison sentence.
In reaction to the court ruling CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said: "This ruling trivializes the serious crime of terrorism, upholds a politically motivated travesty of justice, and lessens Ethiopia’s international standing".
"As a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Ethiopia should comply with its obligations under international law and its own constitution and release Eskinder unconditionally. The persecution of Eskinder and other journalists is the hallmark of a regime fearful of the opinions of its citizens."
The New York-based press freedom group mentioned Ethiopian journalists, Reeyot Alemu, the 2013 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize winner, who is serving a five-year term and Eskinder Nega, 2012 laureate of PEN American Centre, on “fabricated terrorism charges” among several journalists who should be released immediately.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, among other international institutions, have in the past censured Ethiopia for the imprisonment of Reeyot and other journalists facing lengthy prison terms under the country’s overly broad anti-terrorism law.
By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

Ethiopia: Terrorism Law Decimates Media | Human Rights Watch

Free Jailed Journalists, Allow Media Freedom
MAY 3, 2013
Ethiopia’s journalists shouldn’t be spending World Press Freedom Day in jail on trumped-up terrorism charges. Freeing these journalists would be an important step toward improving Ethiopia’s deteriorating record on press freedom.
Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director.
(Nairobi) – The Ethiopian government should mark World Press Freedom Day, on May 3, 2013, by immediately releasing all journalists jailed under the country’s deeply flawed anti-terrorism law. On May 2, 2013, the Supreme Court upheld an 18-year sentence under the anti-terrorism law for Eskinder Nega Fenta, a journalist and blogger who received the 2012 PEN Freedom to Write Award.

Eleven journalists have been convicted and sentenced since 2011 under Ethiopia’s repressive anti-terrorism law, including six in absentia. Three of the eleven are currently in prison. Two other journalists are currently on trial under the anti-terrorism law. Another journalist, Temesgen Desalegn, the editor of the now defunct independent magazine Feteh, is on trial for three offenses under the criminal code.

“Ethiopia’s journalists shouldn’t be spending World Press Freedom Day in jail on trumped-up terrorism charges,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Freeing these journalists would be an important step toward improving Ethiopia’s deteriorating record on press freedom.”

Since Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law was adopted in 2009, the independent media have been decimated by politically motivated prosecutions under the law. The government has systematically thwarted attempts by journalists to establish new publications. Blogs and Internet pages critical of the government are regularly blocked, and in 2012 printing houses came under threat for printing publications that criticized the authorities. Mastewal Birhanu, the manager of Mastewal Publishing, for example, was charged under the criminal code for printing the editions of Feteh that were the basis for the charges against Temesgen.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised concerns about the anti-terrorism law’s overly broad definition of “terrorist acts.” The law’s provisions on support for terrorism contain a vague prohibition on “moral support” under which only journalists have been convicted.

One of the three journalists sentenced under the law who remain in prison is Eskinder Nega Fenta, a veteran Ethiopian journalist. He had been detained numerous times, and was sentenced in July 2012 to 18 years in prison for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, as well as participation in a terrorist organization. Eskinder’s sentence was upheld on appeal on May 2, 2013. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a panel of independent experts, concluded in November that Eskinder’s imprisonment was arbitrary and “a result of his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.”

Woubshet Taye Abebe, who is serving a 14-year sentence under the anti-terrorism law, was a winner of the 2012 Hellman-Hammett Award, administered by Human Rights Watch. Woubshet was the deputy editor of the Awramba Times prior to his arrest in 2011.He alleged in court that he was tortured in pretrial detention, as have other defendants detained on terrorism charges. The court did not investigate his complaint.

Reeyot Alemu Gobebo, a journalist for Feteh, was convicted on three counts under the terrorism law for her writings. Her sentence was reduced from 14 years to 5 years on appeal, and she remains in prison. Reeyot was recently awarded the prestigious 2013 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. She will miss the May 3 award ceremony in Costa Rica.

Members of the international media have also been charged under the anti-terrorism law. In December 2009, two Swedish journalists, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, were convicted for “rendering support to terrorism” and entering the country illegally “to commit an act that is a threat to the well-being of the people of Ethiopia.” They had entered the country without a visa and were arrested while investigating the situation in Ethiopia’s eastern Somali region, site of a longstanding insurgency. They were pardoned and released in September 2012 after more than a year in prison.

“The journalists who have been detained and convicted have one thing in common – they were all exercising their right to freedom of expression, a right guaranteed by the Ethiopian constitution and international law,” Lefkow said.

In 2012 Hailemariam Desalegn became Ethiopia’s prime minister following the death of Meles Zenawi, under whose leadership the country experienced a sharp decline in civil and political rights – including freedom of expression. Hopes that Hailemariam’s government would improve Ethiopia’s record on free expression have been dashed by ongoingarbitrary arrests and detentions of journalists and others.

Since January 2012, members of Ethiopia’s Muslim community have held regular protests in the capital, Addis Ababa, and other towns over alleged government interference in religious affairs. The government has harassed and detained journalists who have reported on these protests. Yusuf Getachew, former editor of the now-defunct Islamic magazine Yemuslimoch Guday, was charged under the anti-terrorism law and is on trial, though the trial is closed to the public. Solomon Kebede,Getachew’s successor at the magazine, was arrested on January 17 and has also been charged under the anti-terrorism law. Prior to charges being bought, Solomon spent more than two months in pre-trial detention at Maekelawi prison in Addis Ababa, which is notorious for torture, without access to legal counsel.

The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Ethiopian constitution, and in numerous African and international conventions, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Ethiopia has ratified. In November, Ethiopia was appointed to the United Nations Human Rights Council and as such has made a commitment to uphold “the highest standards of human rights as enshrined in the constitution of the country and in the international and regional human rights treaties that Ethiopia has ratified” – including rights to freedom of expression.

“As a recently appointed member of the UN’s Human Rights Council, Ethiopia should take swift steps to improve the media environment in the country,” Lefkow said. “These include immediately releasing all journalists imprisoned under the anti-terrorism law, amending the law’s worst provisions, and ending the harassment of what little independent media remains in the country.”