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Reeyot Alemu, Ethiopia, jailed since June 2011

Reeyot Alemu, Ethiopia, jailed since June 2011

Article ID:

17645

Day 18
Country: Ethiopia
Journalist: Reeyot Alemu
Media: Feteh
Jailed since: June 21, 2011

 

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Reeyot Alemu is an Ethiopian newspaper columnist and English secondary school teacher who has spent more than 1,000 days behind bars. A strong believer that journalists are the voice of the voiceless, Alemu launched a newspaper called Change and was a columnist for the independent weekly Feteh, now closed by the government. "Even if I am facing a lot of problems because of it, I always stand firmly for my principle and profession," she wrote.

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Four days before her arrest, Alemu wrote an article that was critical of Ethiopia's ruling EPRDF party's fundraising methods for a national dam project. Her piece drew parallels between then Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi and the late Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. At this time the Ethiopian government had stepped up measures to quash any independent or critical reporting as political unrest and protests swept the Arab World. Alemu was consequently one of 11 journalists arrested under the country's vague and broad 2009 anti-terrorism laws.

On June 21, 2011, police seized Alemu while she was teaching an English class, with no information given to her on why she was being arrested. The government used her articles and recordings of a telephone call about a peaceful protest – a common practice in Ethiopia as the government has created a full surveillance state – as proof of 'crime'. She was sentenced to 14 years in prison, which was later commuted to five years.

Alemu has refused offers of clemency in exchange for providing information on journalists and has also refused to apologise for truth-telling – even if displaying contrition could mean freedom. She has also been subjected to poor treatment including being denied medical care for serious health concerns, including a breast tumor, and prohibited from having visitors.

Alemu's commitment to journalism and freedom of expression earned her the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize and in 2012, she received the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) Courage in Journalism Award.

The new government of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who succeeded Zenawi after his death in August 2012, has maintained the same repressive climate for journalists and activists. Nine ethiopian journalists are still in jail while 150 journalists live in exile – more than anywhere else in the world – according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.


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#FreethePress '30 Days for Freedom' campaign calls for release of Reeyot Alemu + all journalists jailed in


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wm_WanIfra

Date

2014-04-21 12:28

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