Skip to content

CPJ speaks out on recent detention of journalists in Ethiopia

New York (CPJ) — Ethiopian authorities have been holding a newspaper columnist incommunicado since Tuesday, local journalists told the Committee to Protect Journalists. Reeyot Alemu, a regular contributor to the independent weekly Feteh, was expected to spend the next four weeks in {www:preventive} detention under what appears to be Ethiopian regime’s sweeping anti-terrorism law.

Alemu, at left, is the second journalist picked up and held without charge in less than a week and taken into custody at the federal investigation center at Maekelawi Prison in the capital, Addis Ababa. Deputy Editor Woubshet Taye of the weekly Awramba Times has been held since Sunday, according to CPJ research.

Authorities have not disclosed the reason for Alemu’s arrest, but a local lawyer who requested {www:anonymity} for fear of government reprisals told CPJ that she has been transferred into preventive detention for a period of 28 days, pending further investigations. This is the minimum period for preventive detention under Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law, according to legal experts. Ethiopia’s code of criminal procedure allows for preventative detention for a minimum of 14 days, they said.

Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon told CPJ on Friday that he was not immediately available to comment. Local journalists said they believe Alemu’s arrest could be related to her columns critical of the ruling EPRDF. Alemu’s June 17 column in Feteh criticized the EPRDF’s public fundraising methods for the Abay Dam project, and made parallels between Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, according to local journalists

“We condemn the ongoing detention of Reeyot Alemu without charge,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Since Alemu is frequently critical of the government, we are concerned about the possible use of far-reaching and vaguely worded provisions of Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law to prosecute her. We call on authorities in Addis Ababa to release Alemu immediately.”

The sweeping anti-terrorism law criminalizes any reporting authorities deem to “encourage” or “provide moral support” to groups and causes the government labels as “terrorists.”

Alemu was picked up at a high school in Addis Ababa where she teaches English, according to local journalists. Police then searched her house, according to the same sources.

Ethiopia has six journalists currently behind bars, behind only Eritrea as the nation detaining the largest number of journalists in Africa. Eritrea holds at least 17 members of the press in its secret prisons, according to CPJ research.

5 thoughts on “CPJ speaks out on recent detention of journalists in Ethiopia

  1. We live in a moment and time where the inhabitants of the earth are held in total morale darkness. Increasingly it has become common practice where government officials and civil authorities across the world are looking the other way when officials from their rank fall in to sin. In a word we are living where evil is being exalted in place of good, truth and right is being relegated to the surface and loot, government sponsored terror is being accepted as standard norm. No wander, the word of GOD as long as 1,700 years ago through the prophet Isaiah warned us there will come a time with such MORAL PERVERSION as the one now. GOD said to his prophet then, “WOE TO HIM WHO PUTS LIGHT TO DARKNES; WOE TO HIM THAT CALL BITTER SWEET, AND SWEET BITTER; WOE TO HIM THAT CALL GOOD EVIL AND EVIL GOOD!”As far as many decent citizens are concerned Legese Zenawi has been the chief ring leader of a terror group called weyane since the mid70’s.This new web of arrest of Ethiopian journalists by Legese need to be denounced. We need another round of campaign that involved all of our people to demand the release of all political prisoners.Inspite of Messay Kebede’s assertion that Legese is at a cross road look what he is capable of doing? Does this make Leges is at his end, or should I say he is at his end and is incapable of comprehending the danger zone he is entering?

  2. Hey guys! I really don’t know what to say. This minority ethnic apartheid regime who represents less than 5% of the overall Ethiopian population is committing the crimes of the century. They arrest, humiliate, torture and kill whoever they don’t like. This criminal regime is widely known for its notorious style human right abuse. So far these mafias have been the untouchable because the tyrannical regime is a friend of the United States and the west in general. The west is blindly 100% behind this hated regime. This is indeed heart breaking. So what is the solution? Can anyone tell me?

  3. Danny,

    There is ONE major element or views missing or WRONG in our thinking. That is to say, that the West and rest don’t accept or like the minority tyrannical regime in Ethiopia as we often erroneously and blindly repeat claiming.

    They are doing business with the criminal tyrant simply because there are NOT well organized and viable proactive opposition groups with whom they may try to do productive business.

    Even during the brutal Nazi carnage under the brutal dictatorship of Tyrant Adolf Hitler some governments were smoothly doing business with mass murderer dictator until and up to the point when Hitler cunningly turned his fascist outrage and killing machines directly against them.

    The West and rest need strong, united, viable, proactive opposition group that is able to challenge the tyrant fearlessly and sustainably, shaking the brutal system of dictatorship deep down to its roots and dirty boots.

    When people see that your are a living and proactive, serious, daring, united, fearless, viable, etc. actor on issues that directly and primarily concerns you and your constituencies(Ethiopians) as well as sustainably pushing for the changes and objective you firmly stand for I am sure that you will get many helping hands currently hiding from you sight.

    If you are ONLY a chatter box thinking only within the box as well as fatalistically praying to the Good Goods for your freedom and liberation then I am sure that we will die with out seeing neither the freedom nor the liberty or the external supports we are talking about.

    The sticks are in our own hands and tyrants are in front of us! :)

  4. When Reeyot Alemu, a high school teacher, was picked up at her high school, while, perhaps, teaching her students her favorite subject, English, her students who witnessed their teacher’s unjustified arrest without a warrant must be dismayed, shocked, and frightened to the extent some of them who were terrorized by the incident in their classroom might have indeed left their school and never returned to their classroom. I don’t blame them for not going back to their school where no one would guarantee for their safety and for the safety of their other teachers unless those other teachers are from Tigray.

    Before Meles’ death squads entered Alemu’s classroom, I am sure, they did not first knock at her door gently as some normal people always used to do. As we all know, the use of force is frequently utilized by Meles’ death squads whenever they arrest a person at any time and at any place. This time when they arrested a young Ethiopian teacher could not be the exception: they might have kicked hard with their booted feet repeatedly at her classroom door until the door finally gave up and was opened widely, exposing the teacher, the students, and everything in the classroom. The kicking of the door is nothing else except to terrorize the students and their teacher. Some of the frightened students might have tried to jump out of the window and run away from those frightening Meles’ death squads, messengers of death. The rest of the students, the courageous ones, might have tried to protect their teacher from being arrested and taken away from them, but Meles’ merciless death squads would kick each one of them with the butts of their guns, leaving each one of the students crying and moaning and soothing their bruises.

    They bent her head down as they forced her into their death squad car, shut the door behind her, and drove her away to Maekelawi Prison to join the fates of the other Ethiopian inmates there. This young Ethiopian lady is not just a high school teacher; she is also very active in providing the Independent Weekly Feteh her controversial articles that criticizes the ways EPRDF handles its dirty job. Who is responsible for her uncalled for arrest? No body! Mr. Bereket Simon, the spoken person for the Woyanne regime, has made it clear that he is not willing to comment on her unlawful and arbitrary arrest, and other Woyanne authorities have not come forward and explained why this young lady was picked up from her classroom in front of her young students and thrown into jail.

    According to the blind Woyanne’s anti-terrorist law, the innocent young teacher will spend at least a month in a preventive detention. I have no clues what this preventive detention is all about. It must be a detention to prevent a terrorist from striking at a government building, at a Church, at a Mosque, at a Synagogue or at the Menelik Palace ahead of time, but this young lady is not a terrorist: she is a simple teacher, and, on her spare time, she writes her opinion on Weekly Feteh. That is what she does for a living! I think Meles Seitanawi wants to send her as a maid to the Arab states and work there as a prostitute and send money back to him. He doesn’t want her to work in her country; she is too smart and knows too much about the corruptions of the Woyanne regime.

    I don’t see any difference at all between the Woyanne’s anti-terrorist law and Pakistan’s penal code that sends to jail or to death any person who criticizes or blasphemes Islam. Any Ethiopian or any foreigner who writes against the corruptions committed by the Woyanne regime will be picked up from his home as he is having dinner with his family, from his school as he is teaching his students, from his Church as he is administrating the Holy Communion to his congregations, from his hospital as he is operating a heart surgery on one of his patients. Whatever job, dangerous or normal, a person is performing, and no matter what, he will still be picked up by the Meles’ death squad and sent to jail.

    Because of Meles’ unethical and illogical anti-terrorist law, Alemu was picked up at her high school; her house was searched without her presence, and no one knows how many valuable articles she might have lost during the search. What is important now is not her valuable property but the person herself, and as the investigation continues, no doubt, the Woyanne people will come up with concocted serious crimes that would land her in Qaliti jail for a number of years. Then she will be one of the 7th or the 8th Ethiopian journalists who are still in jail without any crime that they have committed.

    Meles Seitanawi wants to rule a voiceless, a spiritless, and a blind Ethiopia for a long time to come. Journalists are the voices, the spirits, and the eyes of the Ethiopian people, and without them, there is no way of understanding what is going on in the country; of course, in their absences, Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) and his wife Jezebel (Azeb) will commit more crimes and loot more money without any fear that they will be reported.

    Ms. Reeyot Alemu’s students are now without an English teacher; her absence may have affected most of them. In America when a teacher is absent from her classroom, there is always a substitute teacher who takes her place until the regular teacher comes back. Is there a substitute teacher in Ethiopia? When I was there, I had never seen a substitute teacher; most of the time, Ethiopian teachers never got absent – they loved their jobs. That was then when a teacher was never picked up from his classroom and sent to jail without any reason.

    Does the Woyanne government care about those students who do not have an English teacher because their teacher was picked up from her classroom and put in jail? Has the principal of the high school where Alemu used to work sent a counselor to Ms. Alemu’s classroom to counsel her students who might have been traumatized by the arrest of their teacher? I don’t think anyone knows the answer to these valid questions.

    Any way, it is a curse to be a student or a teacher in Ethiopia at this time where the learning or the teaching environment is not propitious for both the learner and the teacher. The student doesn’t know when he will be picked up and sent to jail; the teacher doesn’t know when he/she will be picked up from his/her classroom and sent to jail; the principal doesn’t know when he/she will be picked up from his/her office and sent to jail. We know Meles owns the whole Ethiopia, so let us see what the Holy Scripture says, “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back–whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn” (Mark 13:35).

  5. Eniwetok,

    Thank you for stating it straight forward. That is our delima;I am not here criticizing every leader some are exceptional such as Birtukan.However, we also have some leaders who prefer a political organization of their own where they can sit as a permanent chair. If these men were concerned about the interest of the public, she was no need for mushrooming of splinter organizations; we could have got all of them under one umbrella long ago. If someone thinks I am maliciously suggesting this, and not in truth-mark my word. If self interest and position is not in the thinking of these leaders Why not then even do this one thing-rotate the chairmanship within their rank. I believe as ewinetu and others repeatedly have pointed out the idea of blaming the west is a psychological cop out. Simply said, we are blaming others for our leader’s failure. That is not to work. One of the stigma attached by the west to the Ethiopian opposition is divided or sectarian oppostion.the obvious Solution is bring those organizations that share common political strategy under one core. Convince the west the opposition is not sectarian in nature anymore and has the masses backing .Then, see how the game changes. Leaders know this, but are unable to think beyond their selfish gain.

Leave a Reply