EAJA condemns monstrous jail sentence for a journalist in Ethiopia
The Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) today condemned an Ethiopian court ruling sentencing a journalist to three years in prison, the latest in a string of jailings of journalists.
On 27 October 2014, Temesghen Desalegn was sentenced after being found guilty of defamation and incitement charges, which stem from opinion pieces he wrote in 2012 for the now closed Feteh news magazine. Desalegn was found guilty on all charges on 13 October.
“This is another monstrous attack on press freedom as it flies in the face of all African and global standards of freedom of expression. The harshness of this action clearly indicates how intolerant is the Ethiopian administration of criticism and free expression,” said Omar Faruk Osman, EAJA Secretary General.
EAJA is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Temesghen Desalegn and for an end to the on-going legal actions against journalists & bloggers which, says the Association, amount to a continuation of a long-running campaign of harassment against journalists and press freedom advocates.
“We have been urging authorities to decriminalise press offences, ensure fair trials for media professionals and a withdrawal of prison sentences against journalists,” added Osman. “Ethiopian government must decriminalise press offences, free imprisoned journalists and stop sending journalists to jail.”
EAJA reiterates its position that journalists should be judged by civil laws and not by criminal statutes, which are inappropriate for dealing with defamation, if there is a case at all. Anybody who feels harmed can seek redress through the civil courts in the form of a retraction, apology or compensatory payment for demonstrable damages. Issuing prison sentences to impede the free flow of ideas and opinions is simply not compatible with democratic principles.
In a separate case, Federal High Court of Ethiopia asked, on 12 November, prosecutors to amend charges so they specify the acts of terrorism that 10 Ethiopian bloggers and journalists are alleged to have been plotting.
More than 15 journalists and bloggers are currently detained in Ethiopia, making it the second leading jailer of journalists in Africa after Eritrea.