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Court denies bloggers, journalists bail

 

Zone 9.1

The Federal High Court 19th bench decided against the appeal presented by the bloggers and journalists who are suspects and are charged by the federal prosecutor and held under custody for the last 125 days. The court passed the decision on August 20.

The six bloggers in custody are Atnaf Berhane, Befekadu Hailu, Abel Wabela, Mahlet Fantahun, Natnael Feleke, and Zelalem Kibret. Soliana Shimeles was charged in absentia. The three journalists are Tesfalem Waldyes, Edom Kassaye, and Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, an editor at the weekly magazine, Addis Guday.

The suspects argued that one can deny the bail only if the charge falls under article three of the anti terror proclamation No. 652/2009 and they further argued that a suspect is denied bail if the suspect has committed one or more actions listed under article three of the proclamation.

However, they mentioned that the federal prosecutor could not provide at least one action listed in the article and the prosecutor rather mentioned article four of the proclamation, which is not appropriate and hence added that the charge is not presented based on the anti terrorism proclamation and requested that their case be seen in a regular procedure of law and grant them bail.

On the other hand, the suspects also claimed that their case needs constitutional interpretation and the charge brought to them is against the constitution and bail right is denied from the presumption that if bail is secured, the suspects may disappear. 

According to the court decision, the prosecutor charged suspects for the protection of the public and the government and therefore it can present the case narrowly or widely and say that the court is examining the charges brought against them based on the anti terror proclamation. Whether the case been seen by the regular law or by the anti terror proclamation the charge is presented by the country’s the anti terror law.

Another appeal by the suspects that is the case of constitutional interpretation. The court decided that the charge brought against the suspect and the articles in the constitution are not against each other, therefore the court has dismissed their appeal.

Another objection that the suspects brought to the court was that the prosecutor said the defendants were organizing other members who are not yet detained. For that allegation, they argued that the prosecutor did not provide the list of the names of those suspects and this in turn narrows their right to defend and also creates a state of fear on others who might be witness in favor of them.

Moreover, in relation to the items that the prosecutor holds as exhibit, since the items have got nothing to do with the charge, they requested the court to order the reimbursement of the items. 

In relation to the charge that states that they were disseminating articles that incite public violence, the suspects said that the prosecutor did not refer to anything about the where, when and what of the dissemination of articles and present their objection by requesting the court to drop or change the charge.

After the court passed the decision of granting the defendants bail the lawyers of the bloggers and journalists stated that they will appeal the case to the Federal Supreme Court.

The court adjourned for October 15, 2014 to hear the preliminary objection by the federal prosecutor.

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New charges against Ethiopian publications further diminish critical voices (CPJ)

 

Five independent magazines and a weekly newspaper have been charged by Ethiopia’s Justice Ministry, a move that may add to the long lists of shuttered publications and Ethiopian journalists in exile. In a press release issued August 4, the ministry accused the journals of publishing false information, inciting violence, and undermining public confidence in the government, news reports said.
The ministry said it pressed charges after running out of patience with the publications for “encouraging radicalism and terrorism.” The state broadcaster aired the ministry’s announcement, but none of the publications received the charge sheet, local journalists told me. The six independent publications are Afro Times, a weekly newspaper, and magazines Addis Guday, Enku, Fact,Jano, and Lomi. All are popular alternatives to the state-run press, which espouses an increasingly positive narrative. Local journalists and news reports said the charges could be a way for the ruling party to silence critics ahead of elections expected in May 2015.
Repeated calls to the Justice Ministry and a government spokesman went unanswered.
The ministry’s charges are not unexpected. In February, the pro-government Ethiopian Press Agency, a state-controlled news wire, conducted a study analyzing the content of the publications and concluded they were responsible for inciting violence and upholding opposition viewpoints, according to local news reports. Many local journalists at the time said they feared the study would be used as a pretext to target the publications later. “It’s a strategy the government uses when they want to stop a newspaper,” Habtamu Seyoum, an editor at popular magazineAddis Guday, told me by phone. “They will prepare an article claiming that a journalist or media house should be closed. The next step is to jail or close the media house; it’s done as a sort of formality.”
The Justice Ministry’s charges reflect a trend of authorities silencing critical media. Since 2009, the government has banned or suspended at least one critical independent publication per year, according to CPJ research.
Addis Guday stopped publishing on August 9. Several staff went into exile shortly after the government announcement, fearing imminent arrest. CPJ research shows their fears are likely justified. “We had police surrounding our offices, insults printed by the government press, constant phone threats–and now [these charges]. It was just too much,” Addis Guday Deputy Editor Ibrahim Shafi told CPJ. A week before the staff members fled, police raided their offices twice in one week, ostensibly to investigate financial records, he said.
The country’s politicized justice system coupled with the ruling party’s near zero-tolerance approach to criticism has led a steady flow of journalists to flee the country. CPJ has directly assisted at least 41 journalists fleeing Ethiopia since 2009, and the total number of exiles is likely higher. Those who have fallen out of favor with authorities, whether from independent or state media, feel exile or imprisonment are their only options.
Authorities arrested another Addis Guday editor, Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, in Aprilon terrorism charges, and arrested photojournalist Aziza Mohamed in July on vague accusations of incitement. Ethiopian authorities have a penchant for sentencing journalists to jail after presenting charges, no matter how spurious the charges may be. Data collected from the registrar of Ethiopia’s Federal High Courtsuggest 95 percent of journalists accused by authorities are found guilty, according to TrialTrackerBlog.org, which publishes news about detained journalists in Ethiopia.
Lomi (“Lemon”) failed to print on August 8 and is unlikely to do so again, local journalists told me, because printers fear publishing anything that has fallen out of the ruling party’s favor. Last month, police searched Lomi‘s offices and accused the staff of working without a license, a charge they denied, local journalists said.
According to the state-run Addis Admas, all but one of the magazines failed to publish recently.
A court in the capital, Addis Ababa, summoned the general managers of three publications–FactAddis Guday, and Lomi–on August 13, but only the general manager of Lomi appeared, according to news reports. Local journalists told CPJ they expect the other three publications to be summoned to court soon.
CPJ was not able to reach journalists from Afro TimesEnkuFact, or Jano.
If these publications close down due to this latest government challenge, Ethiopia’s meager circulation of weekly independent publications–roughly 60,000 for a population of 90 million people–will decrease further. There is only one television station, run by the state, and out of five radio stations, three are staunchly pro-government. The state-run telecommunications company is the sole Internet service provider for a country with the second lowest Internet penetration rates in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Telecommunication Union. With limited independent voices, voters’ access to critical news sources and informed debate ahead of Ethiopia’s May 2015 elections may be negligible. The ruling party would probably not want it any other way.
[Reporting from Nairobi]
Tom Rhodes is CPJ’s East Africa representative, based in Nairobi. Rhodes is a founder of southern Sudan’s first independent newspaper. Follow him on Twitter: @africamedia_CPJ

(Breaking News) 7 ጋዜጠኞች ሃገር ጥለው ተሰደዱ

 

ጋዜጠኛ ቶማስ አያሌው

ጋዜጠኛ ግዛው ታዬ

(ዘ-ሐበሻ) መንግስት ሰሞኑን በነጻው ፕሬስ አባላት ላይ የጀመረውን ሰዶ የማሳደድ ተግባር ሰለባ የሆኑት 7 ጋዜጠኞች ሃገር ጥለው መውጣታቸውን ለዘ-ሐበሻ የደረሰው ሰበር ዜና አመለከተ::

ከሰሞኑ በፍትህ ሚ/ር ክስ የተመሰረተባቸው እነዚሁ ጋዜጠኞች የሎሚ መጽሔት, የአፍሮ ታይምስ ጋዜጣና እና የጃኖ መጽሔት አዘጋጆች ሲሆኑ እነርሱም
1ኛ. ጋዜጠኛ ቶማስ አያሌው
2ኛ. ጋዜጠኛ ዳንኤል ድርሻ
3ኛ. ጋዜጠኛ ግዛው ታዬ
4ኛ. ጋዜጠኛ አስናቀ ልባዊ
5ኛ. ጋዜጠኛ ሰናይ አባተ
6ኛ. ጋዜጠኛ ሰብለወንጌል መከተ
7ኛ. አቦነሽ
የተባሉ ሲሆን ዝርዝሩን ወደ በሁዋላ ይዘን እንመለሳለን::

Ethiopia: Five high-selling magazines, a newspaper facing criminal charges

(Hornaffairs) Five of the largest selling magazines and an affiliated newly-started newspaper are facing fresh criminal charges, the government disclosed today.

The vaguely-worded statement from the Ministry of Justice indicated that the six periodicals and their the publishers are charged due to “repeated acts of incitement and dissemination of false rumors intended to cause a violent overthrow of the constitutional order and to undermine the public trust on the government”.Lomi magazine, Enque magazine, Fact magazine, Jano magazine, Lomi magazine, and Afro-Times newspaper

The statement categorically blamed these – and other unnamed periodicals – for “engaging in incitements that could undermine national security, encouraging and glorifying and encouraging terrorism, inciting ethnic and racial hate, and defaming public officials and institutions”.

The five magazines and publishers facing charges are:

* Addis Guday Magazine, published weekly by Rose publishing P.L.C.;

* Lomi Magazine, published weekly by Dadimos publishing P.L.C;

* Enque Magazine, published two-weekly by Alemayehu publishing P.L.C;

* Fact Magazine, published weekly by Yofa publishing P.L.C; and

* Jano Magazine, published two-weekly by Asnake publishing P.L.C;

The sixth one is a newly-started weekly newspaper, Afro-Times, which is affiliated to Lomi Magazine.

The five magazines are among the highest selling magazines in the nation, according to a data HornAffairs obtained from the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority a few months ago.

The magazines were among the seven magazines that were the subject of a controversial “analysis of private magazines coverage”, conducted by the government last January. (Later obtained and published by HornAffairs (here)).

The statement from the Ministry of Justice claimed that the decision to lodge criminal charges was taken after several attempts to convince the magazines to change their ways. It also claimed that the public has been demanding for legal measures through various channels.

The government will continue lodging crime charges against other media outlets and publishers, the statement added.