CPJ calls for release of jailed journalists

ESAT News (January 5, 2017)

The New York based defender of the rights of journalists called on the immediate release of two Ethiopian journalists sentenced to prison terms on Tuesday by a court in Addis Ababa.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the prison sentences handed down to  journalists Khalid Mohamed and Darsema Sori from the Ethiopian faith-based station Radio Bilal. The journalists were sentenced to prison terms of five years and six months and four years and five months respectively.

Khalid, a news editor, and Darsema, a senior editor at Radio Bilal, were convicted at a December 21 hearing of inciting the overthrow of the regime through their coverage of Muslim protests about government interference in religious affairs, according to reports.

“These harsh sentences are the latest evidence of the Ethiopian government’s hostility to free expression and the right of journalists to do their jobs without fear of censorship or arrest,” said CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, Angela Quintal. “Khalid Mohamed and Darsema Sori are journalists, not terrorists. They should be freed immediately.”

Separately, an Ethiopian court denied bail on Tuesday to Getachew Shiferaw, the editor-in-chief of online newspaper Negere Ethiopia who has been in prison since December 2015.

His trial has been postponed to February 14. Last month a court reduced his charge from terrorism to inciting subversion, according to local rights groups and activists.

The three journalists were among 16 imprisoned in Ethiopia for their work at the time of CPJ’s 2016 prison census, which found the country to be among the top five worst jailers of journalists worldwide.