29 August 2012

Ethiopia Drops Charges Against Prominent Newspaper Editor

Addis Ababa — Ethiopia has freed an editor of Feteh, a leading independent weekly newspaper, who had been jailed following the publication of information about the health of the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, and criticisms of the premier's polices.

Ethiopian authorities late last month blocked the publication of some 30,000 copies of the newspaper. The government said the action was taken on grounds that the articles was "inciting national insecurity and endangering the government and the public".

Feteh?s Editor, Temesgen Desalegn, was accused of using his paper to spread false information and thereby aiming to inciting violence against the government.

He was jailed on Friday after a court refused him bail. However, he was released on Tuesday after the court withdrawn all criminal charges against him, according to Ethiopia's ministry of Justice.

Following his release, an international press freedom advocacy group on Tuesday has welcomed the move by Ethiopian authorities.

However the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Ethiopia to release other journalists who remain behind bars.

"We're relieved Temesghen Desalegn has been freed and will not face criminal prosecution for his journalism," CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said.

"We call on Ethiopian authorities to demonstrate a commitment to freedom of expression by releasing the eight other journalists currently imprisoned for their work and by ending the government's practice of prosecuting journalists who voice dissenting views."

Following the death Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, last week, human rights groups have been urging the new leadership in Ethiopia to commit on the reforms of fundamental human rights, repeal restrictive laws and legislative reform.

Last week Human Rights Watch said: "The country's new leadership should reassure Ethiopians by building on Meles Zenawi's positive legacy while reversing his government's most pernicious policies".

The late Ethiopian leader's funeral will be held on Sunday 2 September, while his successor, Deputy Prime minister and Foreign Minister, Hailemariam Desalegen, will be sworn-in as Ethiopia's new premier at an emergency parliament session held shortly.

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