2013 prison census: 211 journalists jailed worldwide; seven of them are in Ethiopia
Woubshet Taye, Awramba Times
Imprisoned: June 19, 2011
Police arrested Woubshet, deputy editor of the independent weekly Awramba Times, after raiding his home in the capital, Addis Ababa, and confiscating documents, cameras, CDs, and selected copies of the newspaper, according to local journalists. The outlet’s top editor, CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Dawit Kebede, fled the country in November 2011 in fear of being arrested; the newspaper is published online from exile.
Government spokesman Shimelis Kemal said Woubshet was among several people accused of planning terrorist attacks on infrastructure, telecommunications, and power lines with the support of an unnamed international terrorist group and Ethiopia’s neighbor, Eritrea, according to news reports. In January 2012, a court in Addis Ababa sentenced Woubshet to 14 years in prison, news reports said.
CPJ believes Woubshet’s conviction was in reprisal for Awramba Times‘ critical coverage of the government. Prior to his arrest, Woubshet had written a column criticizing what he saw as the ruling party’s tactics of weakening and dividing the media and the opposition, Dawit told CPJ. Woubshet had been targeted in the past. He was detained for a week in November 2005 during the government’s crackdown on news coverage of unrest that followed disputed elections.
In April 2013, authorities transferred Woubshet from Kilinto Prison, outside Addis Ababa, to a detention facility in the town of Ziway, about 83 miles southeast of the capital, according to local journalists and the Awramba Times. Ziway, one Ethiopia’s largest prisons, is a maximum-security jail designed for those convicted of serious offenses, according to local journalists. The authorities did not provide a reason for the transfer. In November, Woubshet was transferred back to Kality prison because he was in poor health, according to local journalists.
Woubshet did not appeal his conviction and applied for a pardon, according to local journalists. In August 2013, the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice rejected the request for a pardon, the Awramba Times reported.
In October 2013, Woubshet was honored with the Free Press Africa Award at the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards in Cape Town, South Africa.
Reeyot Alemu, freelance
Imprisoned: June 21, 2011
Ethiopian security forces arrested Reeyot, a prominent, critical columnist for the leading independent weekly Feteh, at an Addis Ababa high school where she taught English. Authorities raided her home and seized documents and other materials before taking her into custody at the Maekelawi federal detention center.
Ethiopian government spokesman Shimelis Kemal said Reeyot was among several people accused of planning terrorist attacks on infrastructure, telecommunications, and power lines in the country with the support of an unnamed international terrorist group and Ethiopia’s neighbor, Eritrea, according to news reports. Authorities filed terrorism charges against Reeyot in September 2011, according to local journalists.
The High Court sentenced Reeyot in January 2012 to 14 years in prison for planning a terrorist act; possessing property for a terrorist act; and promoting a terrorist act. The conviction was based on emails she had received from pro-opposition discussion groups; reports she had sent to the U.S.-based opposition news site Ethiopian Review; and unspecified money transfers from her bank account, according to court documents reviewed by CPJ.
CPJ believes Reeyot’s conviction is due to columns she wrote that accused authorities of governing by coercion, by (for example) allowing access to economic and educational opportunities only to those who were members of the ruling party, according to CPJ’s review of the translations in 2013. In the last column published before her arrest, she wrote that the ruling party had deluded itself in believing it held the legitimacy of popular support in the way of late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, according to local journalists.
In August 2012, the Supreme Court overturned Reeyot’s conviction on the planning and possession charges, but upheld the charge of promoting terrorism. The court reduced her sentence to five years. Read more