22 January 1998


Five weeklies shut down and 21 journalists imprisoned within less than= six months

Incident details

Anteneh Merid, Goshu Mogus, Taye Belachew, Biru Tsegay, Mukemil Shehibo, Wakshu Bacha, Alemu Tolessa


(RSF/IFEX) - Four journalists with the private weekly "Tobia" were arrested
on 16 January 1998 in Addis Ababa, and the newspaper's premises were
destroyed a few hours later in a fire whose origins remain undetermined.
(See Ifex alert) This is the latest episode in a bout of repression which
has led 21 journalists to jail and shut down five weeklies since September=

**New cases and further information on cases reported in IFEX alert of 19
January 1998**

As usual, Addis Ababa police gave no explanation for the arrest of Anteneh
Merid, Goshu Mogus, Taye Belachew and Biru Tsegay, the four main members of
"Tobia"'s editing team. They had already been detained on 12 January, and
released on bail of 10,000 birrs (1,500 dollars) each. The week before, the
weekly had published an internal circular from a local United Nations
agency, urging its foreign workers to keep food, cash and oil supplies to
face a possible crisis in Ethiopia. Today, the newspaper has lost
everything, and cannot even ask its insurers to help pay for the damage.
Claiming they are overworked, the police still have not visited the scene of
the blaze. In these circumstances, the opening of an inquiry into the cause
of the fire seems more than unlikely.

"Tobia"' s case is only the latest action led by the Ethiopian government
against the "free" press, which has been undergoing a particularly harsh
repression campaign since September 1997 . On 12 January, Mukemil Shehibo,
editor in chief of the independent Amharic-language weekly "Beza", was
arrested. The newspaper had taken up information published in the bi-weekly
"Addis Lesan", which is close to the government, denouncing alleged
corruption within Addis Ababa's regional police.

During the week of 12 January, two private dailies disappeared from news
stands : "Fiyameta", which is close to the opposition, ceased publishing a
few days after the unexplained arrest of its editor in chief, Dawit Kebede.
The same thing happened to "Urji", a newspaper close to the Oromo Liberation
Front (OLF) guerrilla movement, whose editor, Wakshu Bacha, and deputy
editor, Alemu Tolessa, were arrested on 23 December 1997. They were
replacing the former editing team, whose three members were themselves
arrested in October 1997 after denouncing summary executions of three
presumed OLF activists. According to the authorities, "Urji" journalists may
have been directly involved in bomb attacks attributed to the OLF in several
Ethiopian cities during 1997.

In total, twenty journalists are being held now in Ethiopian jails - some
of them since 1995 - along with several thousands of political prisoners.

Reporters Sans Fronti=E8res condemns the harsh crackdown on the private=
by the Ethiopian government, which has ratified the International Convenant
on Civil and Political Rights, guaranteeing the freedom to inform and to be
informed. Ethiopia is to receive 82 million dollars in aid from several
European Union countries, and also from the United States and Japan.
Reporters Sans Fronti=E8res calls on the international community, and
especially sponsor states, to make respect for press freedom a condition of
providing aid to Ethiopia.


Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris, France
rsf (@) rsf.org

Fax:+33 1 45 23 11 51
More from Ethiopia
  • Freedom on the Net 2017: Ethiopia

    The Computer Crime Proclamation enacted in June 2016 criminalizes online defamation and incitement and strengthened the government’s surveillance capabilities by enabling real-time monitoring or interception of communications

  • Freedom of the Press 2017: Ethiopia

    n October, in response to ongoing antigovernment protests, the authorities enacted a state of emergency that allowed them to restrict internet access and social media use and designate two television channels run by Ethiopians abroad as terrorist organizations, among other repressive measures.

  • Freedom of the Press 2016: Ethiopia

    Two journalists—one with an opposition newspaper and another with a state-owned newspaper that had covered mass protests—were arrested in December, and were being held without charge at year’s end.