The independent press freedom monitor known as the Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for the immediate release of sixteen journalists who are being detained by Ethiopian authorities on treason charges.
The journalists were arrested during a crackdown on dissent in Ethiopia that followed a series of antigovernment protests in early November. Twenty-one journalists and the president of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association have been charged with attempting to overthrow the government by force. Additionally, five journalists of Ethiopian descent who work for the Voice of America's Africa division in Washington were charged in absentia.
Committee to Protect Journalists director Ann Cooper says the charges "strike at the heart of Ethiopia's journalist community by criminalizing essential work of the press." Julia Crawford is the committee's African program coordinator. She was part of a delegation that met in Washington with Ethiopian officials, including Ambassador Kassahun Ayele (kass-ah-HUNE ah-YELL-ay), to protest the detentions:
"We do not believe that the charges against them [the journalists] are legitimate charges. As you know they have now been charged or are being charged -- many of them -- with anti-state crimes, serious anti-state crimes. But despite appeals from press freedom organizations, but also from the diplomatic community, the journalists remain in jail. So, we came to Washington to meet with the ambassador and present our concerns to him in person, and also to try to get some clarification, particularly on the status of the jailed journalists."
VOA Director David Jackson has issued a statement calling the Ethiopian government accusations "an obvious attempt to intimidate our reporters."
As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes clear, "everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. . . .this right includes the freedom to. . . .seek, receive and impart information through all media and regardless of frontiers." The United States will continue working to advance press freedom as a key part of its efforts to promote democracy and human rights.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.