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Ethiopia8 July 2004

Merid Estifanos’ trial postponed to 6 August

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.

In this country
3 November - Ethiopia
Leading newspaper editor beaten unconscious outside son’s school
28 August - Ethiopia
Newspaper editor freed on bail
7 May - Ethiopia
Entertainment monthly’s deputy editor freed on bail
8 January - Ethiopia
Letter to prime minister about government’s refusal to licence two new newspapers
20 August - Ethiopia
Three more opposition journalists freed under government pardon

in the annual report
Ethiopia - Annual Report 2008
Ethiopia - Annual Report 2007
Ethiopia - Annual report 2006

Africa press releases
3 June - Somalia
Alarm at TV station director’s abduction near Mogadishu
27 May - Gabon
Government imposes news blackout on President Bongo’s health
26 May - Somalia
Radio reporter shot by militia dies of injuries, fourth journalist to be killed this year

africa archives

18 March 2009 - Democratic Republic of Congo
“Bukavu, murder city”: investigation report into murders of journalists in the capital of Sud-Kivu
21 May 2008 - Eritrea
Naizghi Kiflu, the dictatorship’s eminence grise
6 March 2008 - Kenya
"How far to go ?" Kenya’s media caught in the turmoil of a failed election

Sign the petitions
Sign the petition for the release of ten Eritrean journalists