Reacting to the supreme court’s imposition of a one-month prison sentence on one editor and a fine on another for their refusal to name a source, Reporters Without Borders voiced exasperation today at the continuing harassment of the privately-owned news media by the Ethiopian authorities.
"These sentences are both scandalous and absurd and constitute a new round in a campaign of intimidation by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government aimed at silencing dissident views," the press freedom organisation said.
"We will never tire of repeating to governments that refuse to listen that journalists are not police auxiliaries and they therefore have a right to protect their sources," Reporters Without Borders continued. "And the fact that the supreme court sentences one journalist to prison and fines another for the same offence shows how far Ethiopian justice has strayed from the principle of fairness."
Both Tamrat Serbesa, the editor of the privately-owned Amharic-language weekly Satanaw, and Andualem Ayle, the editor of the privately-owned weekly Ethiop, were convicted of contempt of court on 5 August. Tamrat Serbesa was sentenced to a month in prison while Andualem Ayle was fined 2,000 birr (about 186 euros).
They refused to disclose to the judges the name of a lawyer who was quoted in their newspapers on 26 July on condition of anonymity as saying it was "shameful" that the supreme court rejected the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy’s request that it should order the electoral commission to postpone proclaiming partial results in the 15 May legislative elections because of fraud. About 40 people died in ensuing clashes beginning on 8 June in Addis Ababa between police and demonstrators contesting the results.