The trial of one of the two journalists in prison in Ethiopia, Merid Estifanos, has been postponed until 6 August. He is to be tried by the second criminal chamber of the federal high court
The ostensible reason for Estifanos’ continued detention is his inability to pay bail, but he insists that a member of his family has paid the sum demanded by the judge in charge of the case.
In Ethiopia, more than 40 journalists are currently being prosecuted in connection with their work.
8 march 2004
Reporters Without Borders protests at jailing of former newspaper editor
Reporters Without Borders has protested against the imprisonment of former editor Merid Estifanos of the weekly Satenaw in connection with a charge of defamation of prime minister Meles Zenawi.
Estifanos was summoned to the Addis Ababa federal high court on 2 April accused of defaming the prime minister in an article published in the newspaper on September 2001 and headlined, "The prime minister’s secret agenda".
It accused the head of government of secretly supporting Eritrea, at a time when the country was at open war with Ethiopia. As editor in chief at the time, Estifanos was ordered by the court to produce proof of the allegations, which he had been unable to do.
The judge had agreed to grant him bail in the sum of 3,000 birr (around 350 euros), while awaiting trial, but since he was unable to pay, Estifanos was remanded in custody.
"Without wishing to comment on whether the accusation is well-founded or not, an offence of defamation does not justify imprisoning a journalist," said the international press freedom organisation.
It pointed out that the UN Commission on Human Rights had clearly stated in a report on 18 January 2000, that imprisonment for "defamatory articles constitutes a violation of human rights".
A further complaint for defamation has been taken against Estifanos by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Seyoum Mesfin.