19 January 1998


Newspaper offices burnt down

Incident details


(IFJ/IFEX) - On 16 January 1998 four editorial staff members of the "Tobiya"
newspaper, Biru Tsegaye, Goshu Mogas, Taye Belachew, and Anteneh Merid, were
arrested in Ethiopia. Several hours after the arrests, the offices of
"Tobiya" were burnt down. The fire destroyed office equipment as well as
valuable databases and archive material. According to Aidan White, General
Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, "The burning down
of offices is a new development in the attacks against the free press in
Ethiopia. It has come at a time when the international community is waking
up to the reality that Ethiopia does not protect freedom of speech or other
fundamental human rights. We are horrified at this arson attack," White
added, "and we urge the government to fully investigate the events. We are,
unfortunately, not surprised at the arrests of the editorial staff of
"Tobiya" because that type of action has become routine on the part of the
Ethiopian authorities."

The recent arrests are the latest in a series of detentions in Ethiopia,
which have detained the staff of various independent newspapers. Both "Urji"
and "Tobiya" have been stripped of their editorial and managerial staff and
have shut down as a result. White noted that the IFJ has "names of nearly 20
journalists currently in prison, and others on bail awaiting trial." He
concluded: "These arrests, we believe, are related to their professional
activities and are an attempt on the part of the authorities to silence the
press." The IFJ included Ethiopia in its statements to the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights in 1997. This is the first time that an arson
attack of this nature has been reported.


International Federation of Journalists
International Press Centre, Residence Palace
Bloc C, second floor, Rue de la Loi, 155
1040 Brussels, Belgium

Fax:+ 32 2 2352219
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