29 October 1998

Alert

Two journalists arrested; others still imprisoned


Incident details

Samson Seyum, Tilahun Bekele

journalist(s)

detained


(RSF/IFEX) - In a 29 October 1998 letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles
Zenawi, RSF protests the arrest of two journalists in September, and remind
him of the plight of other journalists still imprisoned in Ethiopia.




**New cases and updates to IFEX alerts as noted in text**
According to RSF's information, Samson Seyum, editor-in-chief of the
Amharic-language weekly "Goh", was arrested in the second week of September
for unknown reasons. In the last week of September, Tilahun Bekele,
editor-in-chief of the Amharic-language weekly "Fetash", was arrested due to
a story alleged to be defamatory concerning the newly established Crown
Mineral Water Factory. The two journalists are now being held at unknown
locations. In addition to these new cases, eleven other journalists are
still in jail in Ethiopia, some since 1995:


Sisay Negusie, deputy editor of "Agiere", has been held since December 1995
in Kerchiele. He was sentenced on 7 April 1997 to one year's imprisonment,
for unknown reasons. He should have been released in December 1996 (see IFEX
alert of 21 October 1998).


Samson Seyum, editor-in-chief of "Agiere" and "Tequami", has been held since
December 1995 in Kerchiele. On 18 April 1997, he was sentenced to one and a
half year's imprisonment on a charge of defamation because of an article
published in "Tequami", and a charge of spreading Islamic fundamentalism
with reports published in "Agiere". He should have been released in June
1997 (see IFEX alerts of 21 October 1998, 13 November and 8 April 1997).


Tamrat Serbesa, editor-in-chief of "Wonchif" weekly, was arrested on 16
October 1997. He is being held at the Central Criminal Investigation Office
prison (Maekelawi). He is charged with libel against President Negasso
Gidada, in a report published in "Wonchif" which claimed that the President
was drunk at a gathering of Oromos (see IFEX alerts of 21 October 1998 and
13 November 1997).


Tesfaye Deressa and Solomon Nemera, chief and deputy editors of "Urji"
weekly, were arrested on 16 October 1997. They are being held at the Central
Investigation Coordination Department in Addis Ababa, and are charged with
involvement in terrorist acts for denouncing the summary execution of three
presumed Oromo activists in 1997 see IFEX alerts of 21 October 1998, 13
November 1997, 25 June 1996 and 13 April 1995).


Garuma Bekele, a journalist with "Urji" weekly, was arrested on 27 October
1997 in Addis Ababa at the office of the Human Rights League, of which he is
secretary general, and has been held since then on the same charges as
Tesfaye Deressa and Solomon Nemera see IFEX alerts of 21 October 1998, 3
January 1996, 12 December and 13 April 1995).


Wakshume Basha and Alemu Tolossa, two journalists with "Urji", were arrested
on 23 December 1997 and have been held since then on the same charges as
Tesfaye Deressa, Solomon Nemera and Garuma Bekele (see IFEX alert of 21
October 1998).


Fisaha Alemu, chief editor of the independent Amharic-language weekly
"Tarik", was arrested on 26 March without explanation, and has been held
since then in Maekelawi, Addis Ababa. On 31 January, "Tarik" had published a
story alleging that monks were involved in drug trafficking in the Tigre
region. Iyob Demeke, "Tarik"'s publisher, had already been questioned about
this article (see IFEX alerts of 21 October, 14 April and 22 January 1998, 8
April 1997, 25 June and 3 January 1996).


Wondwossen Asfaw, former editor in chief of the Amharic-language weekly
"Atkurote", was arrested in the first week of March over allegations in two
articles entitled "General Haile Meles says his force will defeat TPLF force
very soon" and "Defence force opposes - General Tsadikan and Tefera Walawa
are in question". Unable to provide a guarantor for his bail, he is being
held in Kerchiele prison (see IFEX alert of 21 October 1998).


Tesfa Tegegn was imprisoned on 19 June, over a cartoon published in the
weekly "Beza" in 1995 when he was working as chief editor of the newspaper.
This cartoon showed government officials as members of a soccer team. Tesfa
Tegegn had already been imprisoned for several months for this case. He is
now being held in Kerchiele prison (see IFEX alerts of 21 October 1998 and
13 November 1997).


Recommended Action


Send appeals to the President:

  • reminding him that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
    considers
    that "detention, as punishment for the peaceful expression of an opinion, is
    one of the most reprehensible ways to enjoin silence and, as a consequence,
    a grave violation of human rights", and that Ethiopia has ratified the
    International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 19 of which
    guarantees the freedom to inform and to be informed
  • urging him to fulfill his obligations towards the international community
    and to do his best to secure the early and immediate release of all these
    imprisoned journalists
  • especially drawing his attention to the cases of Sisay Negusie and Samson
    Seyum, two journalists who have served their sentences but have not yet been
    released, which is in contradiction with international legal principles
  • asking him to inform the international community of the official charges
    against Tamrat Gemeda, former editor of "Seife Nebelbal", who was arrested
    in October 1997 and is now being held in jail in Natharet, according to RSF
    (see IFEX alerts of 21 October 1998 and 25 June 1996)
  • urging him to secure Gemeda's immediate release if his arrest is related
    to his professional activities




    Appeals To



    His Excellency Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
    Office of the Prime Minister
    Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
    Fax: +251 1 55 20 30







    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.





  • Source

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


    Fax:+33 1 45 23 11 51
    Ethiopia
     
    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.