WAN-IFRA’s letter to Hailemariam Desalegn about Ethiopia Journalists in Prison

Protest Campaign, Ethiopia – 31 January 2014

ARTICLE ID: 17387

H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn

P.O.Box 1031

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

31 January 2014

 

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum (WEF), which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our concern over the continued incarceration of Eskinder Nega and four other journalists, Solomon Kebede, Wubset Taye, Reyot Alemu and Yusuf Getachew, all jailed under Ethiopia’s 2009 Anti-Terror Proclamation.

Eskinder Nega, a publisher, journalist and blogger who is serving an 18-year jail sentence, was yesterday awarded the 2014 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

The Golden Pen of Freedom is an annual award made by WAN-IFRA since 1961 to recognise the outstanding action, in writing or deed, of an individual, a group or an institution in the cause of press freedom.

In making this award, the WAN-IFRA Board celebrates Mr Nega’s commitment and courage in reporting the news and respectfully reminds you that the misuse of anti-terror legislation to jail journalists and those critical of you and your government is unwarranted and against international protocols, including the Vienna Declaration on Terrorism, Media and the Law.

We therefore respectfully call on you to immediately release Mr Nega so that he is allowed to receive the Golden Pen of Freedom in person in Torino, Italy, on 9 June 2014, in accordance with international standards of human rights and freedom of expression.  We also respectfully request that you release all other journalists being held under the 2009 Anti-Terror Proclamation.

We further remind you that in a recent visit to Ethiopia, an international delegation that included representatives from the International Press Institute (IPI) and WAN-IFRA, were denied access to visit journalists in jail and repeated requests to meet with you and members of your government were left unanswered.  Furthermore, a number of recommendations were made from the report, including:

Revamping the anti-terror law to ensure that it does not trample on the rights of freedom of speech and assembly provided under Article 29 of the Ethiopian Constitution and further guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the U.N. Human Rights Covenant, which Ethiopia has ratified.Recommending that Ethiopian lawmakers review laws that bar foreign investment in media, measures that inhibit the development of an economically viable and diversified market.Urging the courts to ensure that rulings restrict press freedom only in cases of intentional incitement or clear participation in acts of terrorism, and that judges act independently to protect the public’s right to be informed about political dissent and acts of terrorism.Urging Ethiopia’s journalists and media owners to step up cooperation to improve professionalism and independence, and to form a unified front to defend press freedom.

In light of the above recommendations, we would like to reiterate our will to initiate talks as to how your government is guaranteeing the freedom of the press and thus fulfilling its commitment to freedom of expression.

Yours sincerely,

Tomas Brunegård
President
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

 

Erik Bjerager
President
World Editors Forum

 


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