A global media freedom body, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has condemned the recent arrest and two-week imprisonment of three journalists from Ethiopia while calling on authorities in the East African country to “immediately drop the prosecution,” a CPJ press communique, revealed, Thursday.
The three journalists — Ezedin Mohamed, Maria Kadim and Editor Ibrahim Mohamed — were said to have been arrested 16 February and held for nearly two weeks, before being released 29 February on a bail of 20,000 Birr (about US$ 2,127) each.
“CPJ condemns the criminal prosecution for defamation of these journalists,” said the executive director of the media freedom watchdog, Joel Simon.
“Use of the criminal law is designed to muzzle critical journalism – those who believe they have been libelled can pursue a case in the civil court.”
“We call on the authorities to drop the prosecution immediately and return all equipment seized from the newspapers,” CPJ added.
The journalists were arrested for reprinting a letter that was purportedly written by Elias Redman, the vice president of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council.
Reprinted from the Web site- “Ethiopianmuslims,” the letter criticized the minister of education’s proposed policy to ban school prayers at public education institutions.
But Redman was said to have denied writing the letter and he then filed a complaint with the Addis Ababa police which claimed that the two newspapers had damaged the council’s relations with the government.
The police also reportedly confiscated computers and printers from both newspaper offices, none of which is yet to be returned, said CPJ.
“This is not the first time these publications have been arbitrarily targeted by the government. A day after the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, 21 December, police arrested and detained Ezedin Mohamed for six days without charge,” recalled the New York-based media rights watchdog. Panapress