13 July 2012

Ethiopia: Court Sentences Exiled Journalist in Holland to Life

Today a court in Addis Ababa sentenced Fasil Yenealem to life in jail. The Ethiopian journalist, who fled to the Netherlands in 2007, had been convicted of terrorism in June.

"I would've been surprised if the court had decided otherwise because it has proven that my fight for democracy, human rights and the rule of law wasn't meaningless and frivolous," Yenealem tells RNW.

"This says that what I'm fighting for is just and that I should pursue my struggle to bring democracy in Ethiopia."

This is not the first time the journalist was convicted in Ethiopia. In 2005, criticizing the re-election of the country's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, landed him in an Ethiopian prison for a year and a half.

Independent journalism

Yenealem hosts a news network called Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) from a self-built studio in Amsterdam. Through it, he strives to bring independent journalism to people in his homeland. But delivering unbiased news to repressive Ethiopia is becoming increasingly difficult. "The government is blocking all kind of outlets," says Yenealem. "Information is filtered and the internet and Facebook are now both very slow."

Although Yenealem and his colleagues have received numerous threats, including in the Netherlands, he doesn't plan to give up. "We will continue making our television show. If we [give up], then we succumb to [the Ethiopian state's] dictatorial and its activities," he says.

A spokesperson of the Dutch government told RNW that Yenealem will not be extradited to Ethiopia, since he holds UN refugee status.

Listen to this week's report by Bridges With Africa on Yenealem.

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