Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders - RSF) is very pleased with the news of the release of Tamrat Zuma, director of publication of the weekly newspaper Atkurot, who has been detained for nearly ten months in Kerchiele prison in Addis-Ababa. "It is the first time since 1993 that a journalist is not in prison in Ethiopia. It is very good news but one must not forget that over thirty professionals working in the press are currently being taken to court and risk being imprisoned at any moment" explained Robert Ménard, general secretary of RSF. In most cases the authorities are at the origin of these legal proceedings.
The organisation has called for the Ethiopian authorities to modify the press law of 1992 which is particularly strict and to do everything in their power so that Ethiopian journalists may work in complete freedom and security. "The government should also quickly take measures to allow the creation of private radio stations and television channels. The state monopoly over radio and television broadcasting prevents the institution of a real pluralism of news items", added M. Ménard.
Tamrat Zuma was released on the 4th of March 2002 after having paid a bail of 16 000 Birrs (about 2 180 Euros). The conditions under which he was held in detention were particularly trying and the journalist has lost over 10 kilos. He also suffers from diabetes.
On the 15th of January 2001, Tamrat Zuma, director of publication of the weekly newspaper Atkurot, was taken in for questioning at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Addis-Ababa. He was released three days later after having paid a bail of 10 000 Birrs (1 350 Euros). He was accused of having cited, in an article, comments from members of the opposition party from a radio station based abroad. On the 20 May he was again arrested and accused of slander and of "inciting violence". He was also criticized for publishing an article about the mismanagement of a state-owned tannery and for an interview held with a former general who announced the "imminent overthrowing of the government".
Ethiopia has for several years been the largest prison in the world for journalists. In 1995 up to twenty-six journalists were imprisoned at the same time. Since 1991 and the arrival to power of the EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), almost one hundred and eighty journalists have found themselves, at one time or another, behind bars. Many others have fled from the country through fear of reprisals. Prime minister Meles Zenawi is on the list of predators against freedom of the press established by RSF.