Reporters Without Borders is very worried about two journalists, Woubeshet Taye and Reyot Alemu, who have been detained since June 2011 and were given long jail sentences more than a year ago on terrorism charges.
Taye, who was the deputy editor of the Amharic-language weekly Awramba Times, was transferred on 19 April to a detention centre in Ziway, 130 kmsoutheast of the capital, Addis Ababa. Alemu, a columnist for the national weekly Fitih and recent winner of an international media freedom prize, is in very poor health.
“Nine months after a new prime minister took over following Meles Zenawi’s death, the Ethiopian government continues to be as inflexible as ever,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The prolonged detention of these two innocent journalists, Taye’s recent transfer to a place far from his family, and the lack of medical care for Alemu are indicative of the government’s intransigence and have dashed all hope of a more tolerant attitude to media freedom.”
The authorities have given no explanation for Taye’s transfer to the detention centre at Ziway, an isolated village, which will mean that this wife and son will have to travel more than four hours in order to visit him.
Alemu, who was awarded the 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on 16 April for “exceptional courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression,” continues to be held in Kality prison, on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, where officials are apparently unconcerned about an alarming deterioration in her health.
The two journalists were sentenced to 14 years in prison under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law in January 2012. The federal supreme court reduced Alemu’s sentence to five years in prison eight months later but Taye’s has been left unchanged.
Ethiopia is ranked 137th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.