Aug 12, 2014

Imprisoned journalists in Ethiopia will support

Prisoners Ethiopian journalists and bloggers get international support. Peace Corps Director Nita Kapoor is concerned about the situation of two former Peace Corps participants.

Tesfalem Waldyes og Simegnish Yekoye
The Ethiopian journalists Tesfalem Waldy and Simegnish Yekoye are both former Peace Corps-participants. Tesfalem (left) is currently in prison in Ethiopia, accused of violating the country's terror along with eight other journalists and bloggers. His journalist colleague Simegnish believes the allegations are unfounded. Photo: Private
Director Nita Kapoor in the Peace Corps.

The nine Ethiopian journalists and bloggers who were jailed in April last year are now international support. 41 African and international human rights organizations asking in a letter Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to release them and other imprisoned journalists and bloggers who are accused or convicted by Ethiopia's anti-terror.
Read the letter here (link opens pdf file).
Having spent more than two months in custody, was nine journalists and bloggers accused of numerous crimes, including violations of the anti-terror law from 2009 It opens up the possibility of long prison sentences and the death penalty.

The letter points out that Ethiopia has previously been criticized by international organizations to use terror laws against critics. Criticism has come from both the African Commission on Human Rights and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Two of the imprisoned journalists, Tesfalem Waldy and Edom Kassaye, related to Norway through both participated in the long exchange program organized by the Norwegian Peace Corps.

- Extra affected

Director Nita Kapoor in the Peace Corps tells Bistandsaktuelt that the Peace Corps has informed the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and the Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia about the imprisonment of Tesfalem and Edom.
Kapoor says that the situation of journalists in Ethiopia in general is worrying. Now journalists with ties to the Peace Corps arrested with serious accusations concerning.
- We are extra touches as it also applies to Peace Corps participants. In addition to being concerned about the arrests, we are also critical of the set while in custody before being formally charged, says Kapoor to Bistandsaktuelt.
She adds that the Peace Corps will follow further developments in the case.

In Kenya and Uganda

Tesfalem and Edom participated in the so-called South-South exchanges. South-south exchange involves professionals from countries in the south traveling to another country to the south as part of a project organized by the Peace Corps.
Edom was on exchange to Kenya in 2012 and Tesfalem to Uganda in 2009-2010. Both traveled as part of an ongoing project related to environmental journalism.
In total, 72 journalists participated in exchange for this project since it started more than ten years ago.
- Human aspects are consistently in all our projects. Freedom of expression and press freedom is a natural aspect of this. Therefore, we found it very natural to support journalism projects, says Kapoor.
Nearly 400 journalists and media workers have participated in various exchange projects organized by the Peace Corps since the millennium. Kapoor says that it seems like the journalists who participate in such international exchanges often have greater professional expertise and become more visible. It may be good for your career, but can also pose a risk.
- They may also be more at risk, says Kapoor.
- This is a problem both journalists and the organizations involved are aware, she says.

- No specific points

The Ethiopian journalist Simegnish Yekoye is the leader in Ethiopian Environment Journalists Association.She is like the imprisoned journalists Tesfalem and Edom also former Peace Corps participant.
Simegnish residing now not in Ethiopia, and speak freely about conditions for journalists in their country.
Both Tesfalem and Edom, according Simegnish reputable journalists with a professional approach to the profession. They are imprisoned along with seven others, six of whom are young bloggers in a group called Zone 9 Yet another member of the group blogs are prosecuted in absentia - that she was not present in court.

The two journalists are not part of Zone 9.
- If you look closely at the indictment is no, literally no concrete accusations Tesfalem and Edom beyond generalizations directed at the whole group, says Simegnish in an email to Bistandsaktuelt.
Simegnish adding that she believes that the nature of the charges against bloggers in Zone 9 is fabricated.

Being engaged and actively express their opinions, however, according Simegnish be dangerous in today's Ethiopia.

- It is also this that forced the rest of us to flee in fear of being exposed for what our friends are now being subjected to, she says.

Frames freedom of speech

The charges against the journalists and bloggers accused the contact with the groups Ginbot 7 and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). These are groups that Ethiopian authorities regard as terrorist groups.
The process occurs simultaneously with other measures that restrict freedom of expression in Ethiopia ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.

According to the website of the organization Comittee to Protect Journalists (CPR) was twenty journalists in the state broadcasting company in the state of Oromia earlier this summer banned from their workplace under government pressure. CPR reported that several of the dismissed journalists went underground for fear of being arrested.

Also freedom of speech in print media may be under pressure. In February suggested the authorities in the country of new measures which, according to critics intend to bring independent newspapers and magazines under greater control.
Secretary Bård Glad Pedersen Foreign Ministry said last week in an email to Bistandsaktuelt that Norwegian authorities are familiar with the indictment against the nine journalists and bloggers and discuss with other countries how the matter can best be addressed by the government of Ethiopia. The country was in 2013, the fifth largest recipient in Africa of Norwegian aid.
bistandsaktuelt (google translated)


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