UPDATE: journalist arrested over Azeb Mesfin’s palace debacle

16 May

Posted by – The Ethiopia Observatory

by Marthe van der Wolf, Ethiopian Journalist Arrested Over Article About Former PM’s Wife

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — An Ethiopian journalist has been arrested and interrogated for writing an article about the wife of late prime minister Meles Zenawi. Wednesday’s arrest came as a surprise since the article was published seven months ago.

Ethiopian journalist Ferew Abebe, editor-in-chief of the weekly publication Sendek, said he was summoned Wednesday to the Federal Police Crime Investigation Department office. He was interrogated about an article he wrote and published seven months ago and was accused of defaming the former first lady, Azeb Mesfin.

Ferew said he was very surprised about the interrogation and being treated like a criminal. He said the federal police asked him many questions and wanted him to reveal his sources. They then took his fingerprints, personal details and photos before releasing him on $265 bail.

Asked for comment, an official in the Ethiopian prime minister’s office, Getachew Redda, said he has no knowledge about journalists being interrogated for writing rumors about the former first lady.

According to the published article, the wife refused to leave the prime minister’s palace weeks after the death of her husband, making it impossible for Meles successor Hailemariam Desalegn to move in.

The federal police say someone filed a complaint about the article, but would not say who.

Ferew was summoned Wednesday morning to appear at the police office and he said he was not told why. By the time the interrogation started, he said, he did not get the chance to contact his lawyer. Ferew said he was not intimidated by the government’s actions. He said that he knows he did his work professionally and that this gives him strength to not hold back in the future.

Prosecutors say they are looking into the case and will take Ferew to court if there is enough evidence.

Rights groups say Ethiopia has a poor record when it comes to freedom of speech for local journalists. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says seven Ethiopian journalists currently are in prison. The appeal of prominent blogger Eskinder Nega was denied earlier this month, meaning he has to serve an 18-year jail sentence.

(Source: VOA)
 
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Ethiopian police pursue editor over story on Azeb’s overstay in palace
CPJ news release

New York, May 15, 2013–Ethiopian police in Addis Ababa questioned an editor for several hours today in connection with a story published in October about the widow of the late Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi, according to news reports.

Officers in the Ethiopian Federal Police Crime Investigation Department interrogated Ferew Abebe, the former editor-in-chief of the private Amharic-language weekly Sendek, about his sources for the October 10, 2012, story that said Azeb Mesfin, Meles’ widow, had refused to leave the Ethiopian national place nearly two months after the prime minister’s death, local journalists said. The story, which was widely covered in local and international press, cited government sources as saying that Meles’ successor, Hailemarian Desalegn, was unable to live in the palace.

Ferew refused to identify his sources and cited Ethiopian laws that guaranteed the rights of a journalist to keep sources confidential, local journalists said. According to the Ethiopian penal code, a court can compel journalists to reveal their sources if a crime has been committed against the constitutional order, national defense force, or security of the state, which constitutes clear and imminent danger.

Police released Ferew on a bond of 5,000 birrs (US$265) pending further investigation, according to the same sources.

On Monday, police also summoned a deputy editor for Sendek to question him about the same story, local journalists said. He was released without charge.

“Ethiopian police’s demand that Ferew Abebe reveal his sources for a story published seven months ago is intimidation and tramples on the protections afforded to journalists under Ethiopian law,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on authorities to abandon their long-standing pattern of vindicative persecution of journalists who raise questions about issues of public interest, such as the occupation of a public building by the former first lady.”

At least seven journalists are behind bars in Ethiopia, making the country the second leading jailer of journalists in Africa, according to CPJ research. Ethiopia trails only Eritrea among Africa’s worst jailers of journalists, CPJ research shows.

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