Free the Press! Release all jailed journalists on World Press Freedom Day – IFEX

On World Press Freedom Day, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is highlighting 10 emblematic cases of journalists in prison, silenced by authorities in retaliation for their work. CPJ is calling on authorities to release these journalists, as well as all others being held in relation to their work.

Add your voice to this campaign. Send messages of support for jailed journalists with the #FreeThePress hashtag and call on authorities in repressive countries to release all journalists held for no other crime than covering issues in the public interest.

Click here to read more about 10 emblematic cases of journalists in prison and take action to free them:

  1. Avaz Zeynally, Azerbaijan
  2. Ahmed Humaidan, Bahrain
  3. Ilham Tohti, China
  4. Mahmoud Abou Zeid, Egypt
  5. Dawit Isaac, Eritrea
  6. Reeyot Alemu, Ethiopia
  7. Siamak Ghaderi, Iran
  8. Fusün Erdoğan, Turkey
  9. Muhammad Bekjanov, Uzbekistan
  10. Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay), Vietnam


Uzbek editor Muhammad Bekjanov has been in jail for 15 years, one of the longest imprisonments of journalists worldwide. Prominent Iranian journalist Siamak Ghaderi was imprisoned in 2010 and has been beaten and whipped in custody. Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Van Hai, serving a 12-year jail term, could barely walk or talk during a prison visit in July 2013, his family said.

Bekjanov, Ghaderi, and Hai were convicted on anti-state charges, an allegation used frequently by authoritarian regimes seeking to silence critical news coverage, according to CPJ. CPJ research has documented a rise in the jailing of journalists since 2000, a year before the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States fueled the global expansion of anti-terrorism and national security laws. Governments have exploited these laws to silence critical journalists covering sensitive issues such as insurgencies, political opposition, and ethnic minorities.

Of the 211 journalists in jail at the time of CPJ’s most recent prison census, 124, or 60 percent, were jailed on anti-state charges—far more than jailed on any other type of charge.

Free the Press! Release all jailed journalists on World Press Freedom Day – IFEX.


E.P.R.D.F.: Exploiter of Compulsory Duty. By Reeyot Alemu



By Reeyot Alemu | Reproduced with kind permission of the International Women’s Media Foundation

This article, first published in June 2011, is one of the last columns Reeyot Alemu wrote before her arrest on June 21, 2011.

Translated from Amharic, courtesy of the Media Legal Defence Initiative.

Reeyot Alemu is currently serving a 5-year prison sentence in Addis Ababa on bogus terrorism charges. The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) honored Alemu with its 2012 Courage in Journalism Award last year, and in May 2013, the UNESCO recognized her “commitment to freedom of expression” with its Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

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As stories about the political crisis in Cairo have been dominating the news from Egypt, there has been limited coverage on a brewing international conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia – two countries that do not share a border but are indivisibly connected by the Nile, the world’s longest river. Continue reading “E.P.R.D.F.: Exploiter of Compulsory Duty. By Reeyot Alemu”

Ethiopia’s Oppression of Journalists – a Global Concern

Journalists in EthiopiaFree-Reeyot-BannerBy Courtenay Forbes, Global Correspondent for Safe World

Reeyot Alemu

Reeyot Alemu is an Ethiopian journalist and teacher who has committed her life to highlighting the corruptions of the Ethiopian government.

In a country where the media is a vehicle for political propaganda, free speech is greatly restricted, Reeyot’s dedication to publicising the suppressions of the government has earned her negative attention from the authorities over the years.

Tenuous Terror Charges and Inhumane Treatment

Reeyot is currently serving a prison sentence under the charge of being involved in terrorist activity. There is an increasing trend within the country of using tenuous terror charges as an umbrella term for incarcerating anyone who speaks out against the inequalities within their society. Reeyot, along with numerous other journalists and political dissidents, have fallen prey to this systematic program of silencing.

The legislation that allows these innocent people to be imprisoned was activated in 2009, ostensibly as an anti-terrorism measure, but has increasingly been used to condemn anyone that the Ethiopian authorities deem to be damaging to their position. A vast land-locked country, Ethiopia is well-known for its disturbing problems with poverty and social inequalities.  The party currently in power, the EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), has devoted much attention to covering this up. The threat that Reeyot and her colleagues pose to this is evidently treated with zero tolerance.

Reports indicate that since her incarceration, Reeyot has been subjected to solitary confinement, been denied food, family visits and legal advice, as well as being subjected to unfair trials with false evidence. Alarmingly, after being operated on for a benign breast tumour, without proper anaesthetic, Reeyot was immediately taken back to prison without any aftercare, and is now suffering painful complications from this horrendous lack of basic medical care.

International Media

The political situation in Ethiopia is renowned for being fraught with fractious relationships and corruption. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising, though no less disturbing, that people such as Reeyot are being treated in such an inhumane way, and being falsely accused of crimes. What is surprising, however, is how little attention this situation is awarded in the world’s media; worryingly little seems to be known about Reeyot and others like her. This is perhaps indicative of the success with which the Ethiopian authorities have kept this problem away from the attention of the international media. Human rights organisations, however, are deeply concerned with the welfare of all those being held under false accusations, and are campaigning for their rights to fair trials, proper access to legal counsel, and safe prison conditions.

Denial of Medical and Legal Rights

The most recent news on Reeyot creates a disturbing picture: suffering complications from her operation, she is in pain and is being denied proper medical care. Her visits by loved ones are greatly restricted, and her father, who is also serving as her lawyer, is banned from giving her any advice in a legal capacity. It is therefore more important than ever that the ongoing campaigns to free Reeyot and the other journalists falsely imprisoned bring much-needed attention to this dire situation.

Imprisonment of Swedish Journalists

Reeyot is a symbol of the oppression being suffered by journalists in Ethiopia. The government uses the fear created by the label ‘terrorist’ to justify this mass-imprisonment. Many others have suffered similar treatment within the country; journalist Martin Schibbye, was imprisoned in Ethiopia, along with photographer Johan Persson, under these terror laws after crossing into the country from the Somali border. Since their release from prison, they have been avid campaigners for the release of these prisoners of conscience.

Incarcerated Family

In a case that gained attention from the international community, Eskinder Nega was similarly committed to bringing the problems with the Ethiopian government to public attention. He suffered a similar fate to Reeyot, and is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence.

The element of this story that gained so much media coverage, however, was the imprisonment of his pregnant wife alongside him on a previous occasion back in 2005. Serkalem Nega was forced to give birth in prison, reinforcing the Ethiopian authorities’ lack of concern with the welfare of these prisoners. Having since fled the danger of her home for the US, Serkalem is carrying out important work to help raise support for her husband’s plight and the many like him.

Foreign Interests and Diplomacy

It is surprising to hear that democratic countries such as the US can be aware of the human rights abuses taking place on a daily basis in Ethiopia. This, however, is the alarming truth. One topic that Reeyot brought attention to was the impact of a proposed dam of the part of the Nile that lies within Ethiopia. Since this is seen as a diplomatic issue between this country and Egypt, the human rights problems that arise out of this plan have been largely ignored by countries not wanting to embroil themselves in any conflicts. The Ethiopian government has been useful to the US authorities in tackling its problems with neighbouring Somalia, and observers from the international community have suggested that this explains America’s apparent leniency towards Ethiopia’s appalling treatment of its prisoners and its use of terror laws.

Ethiopian president Mulatu Teshome has cleverly used the rampant anti-terror sentiment within US policy to justify the condemnation of anyone speaking out against corruption.

Global Community

Reeyot Alemu is an award-winning journalist who is committed to preserving the rights of the people within her community, and her incarceration under false charges and in such horrendous conditions is inexcusable. Since it appears that political authorities from other countries are not willing to intervene in this situation, it falls to the invaluable human rights campaigners to rally support for Reeyot and all those wrongly imprisoned.

The campaign for Reeyot is picking up speed, and many more people are becoming aware of the dire situation of human rights abuses in Ethiopia. By spreading awareness of these inequalities, enough pressure will eventually be put on the Ethiopian government to answer for its actions, and for other governments to add weight to these demands for justice. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide powerful mediums for campaigns such as this one, and in this way everyone is able to make a difference. We must demand justice for Reeyot, Eskinder, and all those who are punished for exercising their right to knowledge and truth.

Take Action

Reeyot Alemu

Sign the Petition

Eskinder Nega

Write to the Prime Minister

Reeyot & Eskinder

Donate to the Media Legal Defence Initiative to help pay for Legal Support for Imprisoned Journalists.


Free Reeyot Alemu – Safe World for Women

Ethiopian journalist on hunger strike – International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF)

Reeyot Alemu: Imprisoned for defending free speech in Ethiopia – IWMF

Jailed Ethiopian journalists challenge use of terror laws to silence dissent – Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI)

MDLI launches fundraising bit for case of Ethiopian journalists

Ethiopia: 4 Journalists Win Free Speech Prize – Human Rights Watch

World Report 2013: Ethiopia – Human Rights Watch

Ethiopia terror convictions an ‘affront’ to free speech – Amnesty International

PEN Appeal: Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye, and Elias Kifle

IWMF video: Bob Woodruff presenting Courage in Journalism Award to Reeyot Alemu

IWMF video: Reeyot Alemu wins 2012 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award

Amnesty International video: “He’s a journalist, not a terrorist”

PEN America video: Eskinder Nega, recipient of the 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award

Anti-Terrorism Proclamation | Born from Power Thirst – by Reeyot Alemu. (IWMF)

Letter From Ethiopia’s Gulag – by Eskinda Nega (New York Times)

Kerry’s Ethiopia Opportunity – by Martin Schibbye and Patrick Griffith (Wall Street Journal)

Reeyot Alemu: Ethiopia’s Jailed Truth Teller – The Daily Beast

Ethiopian Journalist’s last chance for freedom – by Christiane Amanpour and Cynthia McFadden (IWMF)