The Ethiopian Federal High Court's conviction of Getachew Shiferaw, editor of the news website Negere Ethiopia, on charges of inciting subversion is a further blow to press freedom in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Getachew's lawyer, Ameha Mekonnen, told CPJ that the court convicted him of inciting others to obstruct an official from performing his constitutional duties under articles 257A and D of the Ethiopian penal code, based on the allegation that Getachew in an exchange of private messages on Facebook told journalist and activist Abebe Gellaw that it would be a "good alternate method of struggle" for Gellaw to intervene publicly against former Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi. Getachew denies the communication took place, and will appeal the verdict, Ameha told CPJ. The editor faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, according to media reports.
Getachew was arrested without charge on December 25, 2015, and his case postponed several times. He was eventually charged under the country's anti-terrorism law before the charge was reduced to inciting others to obstruct an official from performing his duties.
"That prosecutors struggled to find a charge to levy against Getachew Shiferaw shows that Ethiopian authorities are desperate to lock journalists away and makes a mockery of this conviction," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. "We call on authorities not to contest Getachew's appeal and to allow him and all journalists to work without interference."