Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called today on the Ethiopian government to immediately release three recently-arrested journalists, abolish the 1992 press law and amend the criminal code to ease its "harsh restrictions" on the media.
RSF was glad the last journalist in prison in Ethiopia was freed early last month, but the new arrests showed press freedom was "never to be taken for granted and that great vigilance is required," RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to prime minister Meles Zenawi, who is on RSF’s worldwide list of 38 "predators of press freedom."
One of the three journalists, Lubaba Said, former editor of the newspaper Tarik, was jailed for a year by the federal high court on 3 April for "inventing news likely to demoralise the army and make people anxious" and was taken to the main prison in the capital. A few years ago, she published two articles reporting that members of the presidential guard had defected.
On 20 March, Melese Shine, editor of the newspaper Ethiop, was jailed by the federal high court for publishing an interview with a colonel in the former imperial army now in exile in Sudan and also for writing a profile of the prime minister based on statements by former aides. Shine was accused of "libelling the head of government" and "interviewing a bandit claiming to be leader of an illegal organisation." He is being held at the Woreda police station in Addis Ababa and is being asked to pay bail of 10,000 birr (€1,350).
Gizaw Taye Wordofa, editor of the weekly Lamrot, was arrested on 15 March for publishing "immoral and indecent material" by distributing stories about sex.
About a dozen other journalists are currently being prosecuted or are free on bail, according to the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists’ Association (EFJA).