Reeyot Alemu: Jailed But Not Forgotten

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Reeyot Alemu, an Ethiopian journalist currently serving a five-year prison term for her work reporting on banned opposition groups, just won the 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

Alemu was originally arrested with others for “lending support to an underground network of banned opposition groups, which has been criminalized under the country’s 2009 antiterrorism law.” Among the evidence used against her and her colleagues were some 25 articles they’d published in the Ethiopian Review.

In January 2012, Elias Kifle, the publication’s Washington, DC-based editor, was given a life sentence in absentia.

In a letter to Ethiopia’s Minister of Justice earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Jouranlists’ Joel Simon wrote:

Prison authorities have threatened Reeyot with solitary confinement for two months as punishment for alleged bad behavior toward them and threatening to publicize human rights violations by prison guards, according to sources close to the journalist who spoke to the International Women’s Media Foundation on condition of anonymity. CPJ has independently verified the information. Reeyot has also been denied access to adequate medical treatment after she was diagnosed with a tumor in her breast, the sources said…

…All of the charges against Reeyot were based on her journalistic activities—emails she had received from pro-opposition discussion groups and reports and photographs she had sent to opposition news sites. Reeyot, who received the International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award in 2012, has covered key developmental issues in Ethiopia such as poverty, democratic opposition, and gender equality.

In 2011, The CJP reported that 79 Ethiopian journalists were in exile. The ruling party, which controls 546 of the 547 seats in parliament has passed laws over the last five years restricting independent media, political opposition groups and civil society organizations.

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